Selecting, Cleaning, and Using Gourds
Who can resist the pull of a mound of gourds at the local
market? Fall is the time of year when gourds are not only most
available, but are also at their most glorious. Those sensual
shapes just seem to cry to be taken up and admired, and no
wonder because it has been quite a journey from field to
farmers’ market for them.
harvest, each hard skinned gourd goes through a drying period varying
from a few months to a year, depending upon its size. The gourd which
weighs 50 pounds when green will weigh just a fraction of that when dry,
so that even we weaklings can pick it up easily with one hand. The
rattle inside some gourds are the seeds, next year’s crop if one is so
inclined, or the means by which rhythms have be made for centuries.
When selecting dried gourds, find the shapes and sizes which appeal and
look for unwrinkled surfaces. The thicker the skin, the better. They
will feel slightly heavier, and the sound will be different.
Karen Lilly, The Artist
a few will give you all of the experience you need. Buying
gourds while they are still green will not guarantee a dried
So, what does one do with them after answering their siren call
of “Buy me, buy me!”? If they are clean, skip this step, and
pat yourself on the back. If, however, they appear to have
dried mold or surface dirt, the “easiest” way is to wet a towel
and wrap the gourd completely; let it sit for half an hour.
Then, using a metal pot scrubber, like Chore Boy, put the gourd
under running water and scrub. (I have found the metal scrubbers
with plastic handles to be real hand savers.) Very
occasionally, a thin shiny skin remains, and this can be removed
with further furious scrubbing. Many people try bleach or
sanding, but these steps really aren’t necessary. The soaking
facilitates this step enormously.
If you would like to add color to these lovely shapes, that can
be simply done. Meltonian shoe polish thinly applied with a
cosmetic sponge, left to sit until the color reaches the right
depth, and then buffed off provides a lovely organic color. (Meltonian
works very well because it has less wax content for more
complete saturation.) Some people also enjoy using leather dye
for a brighter color. Of course, colored pencil is my personal
favorite, no surprise there. However, no matter the colorant,
the color will fade if placed in direct sunlight. You may also
choose to spray the end product with a clear acrylic spray, like
Deft, as I do, for further protection.
The final task is to find just the perfect spot for display.
Gourds enjoy being pack animals and so enjoy being grouped
together as well. (This perhaps is a little known fact, but
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