Posted: November 22, 2011
Curing gourds is a two-step process which may take 1 to 6 months depending on the type and size of the gourd. Surface drying is the first step in the curing process and takes approximately one week. During this time, the skin hardens and the exterior color of the gourd is set. Place clean, dry fruit in a dark, well-ventilated area. Arrange gourds in a single layer and make certain that the fruits do not touch each other. A cooling rack will allow air circulation around the gourds. Check gourds daily and discard fruit that show signs of decay or mold and any that develop soft spots.
Internal drying is the second step in curing and takes a minimum of four weeks. Keep the gourds in shallow containers in a dark, warm, well-ventilated area. If any mold appears on the outside skin, gourds can be wiped clean and allowed to continue drying. However, any gourds that become decayed, shriveled, or misshapen should be discarded. Periodically turn the fruit to discourage shriveling and promote even curing. Providing warmth during the internal curing process will accelerate drying and discourage decay. Adequate curing is achieved when the gourd becomes light in weight and the seeds can be heard rattling inside.
Once well cured, gourds may be waxed, shellacked, or painted. A high-grade transparent furniture or floor wax is preferred to shellac or varnish because the latter may change the natural color. Dried gourds can be used for bird houses, bowls, and planters. Decorating them with non-toxic craft paints is a great kid’s project. With some imagination, cured gourds can be painted for any holiday.
The Penn State Master Gardeners in Lackawanna County have the publication “Growing and Curing Gourds in the Home Garden.” For a copy contact us at 570-963-6842 or email: LackawannaMG@psu.edu.