How to create art from a vege
Gourds are fun to grow, but you can end up with enough to last a lifetime, or at least a healthy supply to flick off at the local markets and to friends, family, strangers. Anyone.
Gourd growing in New Zealand is not as popular as it is in the US, where the American Gourd Society and The Gourd Magazine were set up to satiate their thirst for all things gourd. Speak to any American and they’ll tell you that hard shell gourds have been grown and used for as long as anyone can remember. In times past they served as drinking and eating vessels, but today they’re used as ornamental bowls, birdhouses, artwork and festive decorations.
“The product I take the most pride in that I sell at this time of the year are my beloved gourds,” says Janna Field of Fieldfarms, a small farm in Dexter, Michigan.
“I love gourds. I grow them every year and have a huge stash of many kinds. I clean the gourds and turn them into useful items. Christmas ornaments are
my best-selling gourds, and they sell for $US15 each. I clean the gourds, drill a hole in the top, insert a gold string for hanging, and paint them. I also sell gourd birdhouses and gourd bowls.”
The gourds are a constant crowd-puller at her market stall, whether sold freshly picked, or dried and decorated.
“My husband built a wonderful display for these gourds and it really catches the customers’ eye,” she says. “Most don’t even realise how many varieties there are and what can be done with them. It creates a very unique display that helps me stand out at the market.”
Gardeners grow gourds in New Zealand but not to the same extent, largely due to the challenge of importing gourd seed into New Zealand.
“Virus testing is currently required by the Ministry of Primary Industries prior to importing each order of gourd seed into New Zealand,” says Karen May of NZ seed supplier Kings Seeds. “This has increased the price considerably, due to the multiple tests required. Sadly, this has made many of the varieties no longer economically viable for us to stock, which is a great shame as the enquiries we receive indicate that there are many customers out there who love growing all the different gourds.”
Kings Seeds sells a gourd mix called ‘Large Fruited Mixed’ which includes large varieties such as Calabash, Caveman’s Club, Powder Horn, Dipper, Bird House and others. Some have hourglass shapes that are great for doll-making, others are pear-shaped and ideal for turning into birdhouses. Dipper gourds have long, skinny necks with round bulbous ends that, when cut, make useful ladles or dippers.
Kings also sells a mix called ‘Small Fruited Mixed’ which includes colourful and intriguing varieties such as Spoon, Pear, Orange, Egg, Apple, Bottle and Warted. These make fabulous table and seasonal decorations.
Country Trading Co has seeds of the large bottle gourd.
In the US, people are so enamoured with gourds, there is a formal society and a magazine.