Photo via http://ow.ly/UzUTy
Pumpkins take up most of the spotlight at this time of year, but what about gourds? They come in so many different shapes, sizes, and textures. I found a striped spoon gourd at the local farmers’ market the other day that’s now the star of the centerpiece on my dining room table! I thought I’d use this week’s post to take a closer look at this inimitable fruit. By the way, the first thing I learned about gourds is that they’re a fruit, not a vegetable. Enjoy!
The History of Gourds
Gourds have been around for thousands of years. Native Americans were among the first people to make them into birdhouses that supplied shelter for purple martins and other small birds. Early on, many cultures throughout the world used gourds to make practical items such as bowls, eating utensils, and cups. Some early civilizations used gourds to make musical instruments. Gourds were prized as both practical and decorative items just as they are today.
A dried gourd used for a birdhouse, photo via http://ow.ly/UzWqO
Where Do Gourds Grow?
Gourds are annuals that flourish in warmer temperatures. These fruits thrive in an area with well-drained soil that receives lots of sunlight. Gourds are low-maintenance plants, but they do need water during times when rainfall is low. It takes most gourds at least 100 days to mature. For example, it takes at least 110 days for the luffa gourd to mature.
Reasons Why People Grow Gourds
People grow gourds for a variety of reasons. Often, they are used as decorations during autumn. Along with my centerpiece, I have a gourd lamp given to me by a close friend. Gourds can also be the basis of a fun craft. The hard shell of a gourd makes most of these fruits inedible. However, young luffa gourds that are still green can be cooked and eaten.
Photo via http://ow.ly/UzYeB
Gourds of All Types and Shapes
Ornamental and hard-shell gourds are just two of the types available. Some gourds get their name from their distinctive shape, such as the pear gourd, the orange gourd, and the spoon gourd. The unique crown of thorns gourd features ten points around its circumference. Striped, bicolor, and flat gourds are other popular favorites. There are even gourds with warts on them for owners who like a piece of fruit with some texture.
Did you know that there are competitions that celebrate gourds? Some competitions focus on the size or shape of a gourd. These fruits can be trained as they grow, resulting in a variety of unique shapes. Some award-winning gourds have twists, curlicues, or several layers. Other competitions award prizes to people who’ve transformed a gourd into a work of art. I admire the patience and creativity it takes to grow a one-of-a-kind gourd.
What Can I Make Out of a Gourd?
One idea for a beautiful gourd is to turn it into a birdhouse. The process requires you to clean the gourd and drill a hole in it to clean out its seeds. You can paint your gourd birdhouse a solid color or embellish it with some interesting design work. Another idea is to make a set of bowls out of a few gourds. You can use them for salad, candy, or even popcorn on movie night at home. Other craft ideas for gourds include jewelry, Christmas ornaments, lamps, decorative vases, and water pitchers.
An owl pendant made out of a gourd, photo via http://ow.ly/UzXdq
Gourds are easy to appreciate no matter what form they take! So be on the lookout for unique gourds this fall.