Drying Your Gourds

Part of the fun of buying gourds in the fall is drying them out to decorate and use next year. Although this is a simple process, there are some tips and techniques that I would like to share with you to ensure they dry properly.

Properly dried gourds will show the markings left by mold, be hollow, hard and lightweight.
Properly dried gourds will show the markings left by mold, be hollow, hard and lightweight.

Gourds dry the best when left on the vine, but today most of us purchase our gourds. If you are growing your own, simply leave them on the vine and on the ground there is no reason to protect them from the damp ground.

If you are like me and purchase your gourds, it can be a bit more difficult. Gourds that are picked before maturity will be more likely to rot. If you have gourds that you want to keep, don’t bring them inside. They need good airflow, and lots of it.  Putting them in a cellar, garage or basement will cause them to rot for sure (If you have a very small number of them, you may be able of getting away it though). Gourds will do best if left out in the elements to dry; rain and freezing temps will not hurt them.

All sizes of gourds can be dried. Some people hang them, while others put them on pallets or leave them on the ground to dry.
All sizes of gourds can be dried. Some people hang them, while others put them on pallets or leave them on the ground to dry.

Never scrape the outer skin from your gourd. This is the gourds protection from insects, mold and other forms of decay. It also allows the gourd to breath, letting the liquids inside escape. It is also a bad idea to cut holes in your gourd to remove the insides, again this will only promote decay, not curing. Some people who are more experienced know that you can scrape hard-shell gourds, but it is not recommended for the beginner.

As your gourd begins to cure, you will notice large spots of mold. Black mold, grey mold and white mold all over the skin. This is completely normal, and they should not be cleaned. This is only part of the process, and it will only return if you do. If you notice any soft spots on them, discard them immediately. They are giving off Ethylene gas, which is a chemical signal for fruits and vegetables to rot. Mulch them, or put them out for animals to enjoy.

Gourd paintig showing mold by Hanna Richards.
Gourd paintig showing mold by Hanna Richards.

The chances of you having a few gourds that rot are pretty high. If they have not been left on the vine long enough they will not have received enough hardening agent to counteract bacteria. You will probably loose about 5-10% to rot (if you catch it early).

Birdhouse gourds (Langenaria) are about 90% water. Lots of people actually do drill small holes in the bottoms of these gourds and hang them to dry. This is not recommend for inside as they will cause a big mess. Eventually the water will stop though, so if you are willing to deal with the mess for awhile, the ease of hanging them in the garage may be beneficial. Again be careful of rot. If you can make sure there is ventilation and airflow.

This is a decorative approach to hanging gourds. However until mostly dried they should be hung individually to prevent soft spots.
This is a decorative approach to hanging gourds. However until mostly dried they should be hung individually to prevent soft spots.

A larger gourd will take 3-6 months to fully dry. They will be lightweight, and you will be able to hear the seeds raddle inside. The possibilities are endless and fun when dealing with decorating dried gourds-so have fun and enjoy the benefits of your patience!