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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How to Clean Gourds

The gourd I chose at the gourd show--$1

Remember all the pretty gourds below, sort of tan. Well, they all looked like this one I bought, once upon a time. Actually, all were green and healthy looking. They then began to look like the gourd above, dried and scummy looking.


they were scrubbed to within an inch of their lives and sold for $5. They don't have holes of any sort in them, yet.

I did not feel I could spare $5.  As I rummaged in the wire corral with $1 gourds, I muttered that I wonder why these were so cheap. I meant were they mis-shapen. One woman customer said the ones like I bought were defective. She said she thought they were rotten and I should not buy one. She and her friend were going through the bins above.

She was shocked when I told her all gourds started like the cheap ones, that she was just paying for someone to wash them for her.

All the still-green gourds should have been left in the field to dry out. Water won't hurt them. Neither will a little dirt. By the way, a gourd is dry if it rattles. Those are seeds. Do not bring gourds inside to dry. They stink indoors in large quantities. 

In order to wash a gourd, get a five gallon bucket if you only have one gourd. If you have more than one gourd, I would use a large metal washtub like mine, about three feet across. Fill either container about two-thirds full of water. Put 1/4 cup of Clorox in the bucket and 1 cup in a large tub. Put the gourds in the water and sort of roll them around to wet them. They float. You can drape a wet towel over them. I did not, but it helps to soften the scum on the gourds.

Oh, I forgot the most important part--wear clothes that won't be ruined by Clorox-y wet gourds popping up and getting Clorox water all over. Same for shoes. Remove all jewelry. This is the messiest job I have ever done. Use a scrubby, the sponge and green nylon kind to wash all the grossness from the gourd. That will get all over you, too. Don't use steel wool to scrub.

As you wash them very clean, lay them out of brick or board to dry. On a hot day, this happens quickly so you can move to the next step.  However, you can crack the gourd if it gets too hot when wet, so under the shade of a tree will work.

Get your drill and hole saw. First, never hold onto the stem. Never. The beauty of a gourd is the stem.

*Drill four holes in the bottom of the gourd for drain holes, less than 1/4" holes.
*Be careful and drill two holes opposite each other about two inches from the pointy top of the gourd. You can put wire or leather through this to hang your gourd. For outdoors, I use a piece of a copper-colored. wire clothes hanger. Leather will break and your gourd might break as it falls.
*Use the hole saw to drill a hole in the side of the gourd. Make sure you put the hole directly on the side of the gourd, not up too high where water easily runs in or too low. For this step, it helps if you have the hanging wire in place and hang the gourd, handing it off the end of your finger will work. This way, it's easier to get the hole placement correct.

**Don't use metal to clean the outside or you will have scratches. Some sites will recommend stainless steel. Don't. Oh, said that...worth repeating.
**Use a cheap paper mask so you won't breathe in mold or dust. I never did use one.

I put the gourd between my legs as I sat on the porch steps. Then, I used the drill bit and then the hole saw between my legs. I know, pretty dangerous. Two pieces of wood nailed to a backing where the wood was V-shaped to hold the gourd still might be less dangerous.

When you drill this hole with a hole saw, no one told me what happened directly afterwards. First, you have to get the hole saw out of the hole. Then, you notice 10,000+ little mites or something crawling out. Eeeek!

You can either give each hole a shot of any kind of bug spray or throw the gourd back in the Clorox water, or just be brave.  I put it back in the Clorox water.

Save the seeds to plant next year. I suppose you might get the same kind of gourds. No promises.

Now comes the hard part. Using a bent piece of wire or a brush or something, you have to clean the mass of debris from the gourd. I hate this part. They make a ball to place on a drill just to clean gourds.

It took me about two days to do all this work to 20 gourds, but I am not a professional. AND, I paid 50 cents for each gourd. After I finished, I gave them all one coat of white paint. These were used for a children's craft camp, ages 5 to 11. Then, each child painted a gourd with paint that comes in the little bottles, forgot what kind--craft paint. That craft was a success.

Really fabulous decorative arts can be made from gourds--baskets, drums, bowls, canteens... Shoe dye is used mostly for coloring the gourds. Now, there is a dye made just for gourds.  

Edit: What part of the country gourds grow is found at the gourd reserve.
Your turn
What have you made of gourds? Do you like these sorts of items in your yard as much as I do?


  1. I've made birdhouses with gourds. I think the same way you did. I do like these items alot! A friend carves and burns and paints gourds then sells his work for over 200 dollars a pop. I someimes just like the plainer ones but I'd love bowls and baskets made of these!

  2. i am not familiar with gourds except when my grandma was growing them. you sure seem to know your stuff!

    if we ever grow gourds, i know who to talk too!

    btw - thank you so much for your kind comments after i got hurt, means the world! on the mend now.

    if i can swing it, i will mail you some frozen trout next season!

  3. Oh, sweet jambaloney...would love trout! Happy dance here, if you can, wonderful. If you cannot, that's okay.

    We have had a gourd festival here for years. Friends grow them. I mostly admire them or buy the unwashed ones! Or, I make the simpler items. Next year, maybe I will grow gourds.

    I am glad you are up and feeling somewhat better. I just stabbed myself, trying to work with my hurts!

    Oh, I saw a $200 basket on the outside. Fancier and more expensive ones were on the inside where I refused to pay to look this year.

    You could grow gourds next year as a new crop and sell to the city People make the fabulous Martin houses from them and sell them. You can put up a Martin house and cut down on mosquitoes, plus have these marvelous birds. Sell all kinds of gourds when you get a shop, just keep moldy ones on the outside of the shop.

    I unearthed my son's old woodburner kit before I got the gourd. Then, I found a gourd in the basement, 7 years old, maybe. I may try my hand at woodburning.

  4. dear friend - thank you for the tutorial! gourds are just popular around here and i have no idea why - i will have to check into it. i would love to grow some gourds to make birdhouses - whenever i look at blogs of my friends to the south they seem to always have birdhouse gourds - i love them! are gourds a really warm-weather crop? if so, maybe that is why they are not popular up here.

    and thank you from me for all of your support these past few days. and for all of your helpful comments and advice. i sure do love to hear from you.

    and yes - trout season is over and in our stupidity - we did not freeze very many. and so will be trout-less until next season. but as soon as next season starts up, we can freeze a bunch for a good week or so, put them in one of those mailing-freezer bag things and they should get to you in time before defrosting.

    we won't forget, Linda!

    your friend,

  5. kymber,
    I put an edit at the bottom of the post that will explain where to grow gourds. Unless you have a greenhouse, you are out of luck.

    You really need a gourd birdhouse! Maybe someone around your area can tell you if they grow gourds. If there are many gourd birdhouses, I cannot imagine importing that many.

    Glad you are sounding less desperate and frightened.

    Okay, I am counting on the I didn't know there were freezer bags for mailing.

    Your catching trout and freezing enough to sustain you for the winter seems to be a very good thing to do. Who knows when other meats might be unattainable. Besides, fish are good and good for you.

    I am back to dehydrating tonight. Take care.


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