My last blog article covered how to clean a previous year’s gourds. The method described in that post is great for gourds of all sizes, from tiny to huge. However, letting nature take her course with mold growing over the entire surface can leave areas of discoloration that may interfere with artistic preferences.
In this article, I describe (and show via video) a nifty process that not only gives you a more uniform surface but also speeds up the drying process. While the old, moldy way is an over-wintering process, the greenscraping method yields ready-to-art gourds in just a month or two.
In the above photo, you can see my freshly picked banana and cannonball gourds in the bowl and those same gourds completely greenscraped and drying on the racks. Also pictured are three completed gournaments from past seasons. Though I may lose some of the freshly greenscraped gourds due to their immaturity at season’s end, I love the nearly perfect surface created with this method so much that I find it’s worth it to lose a couple in the process.
Gourds larger than you can hold easily in one hand should be left to cure naturally (as described in my previous article). The imbalance of moisture content between the very wet insides and the drying, scraped outside of a larger, thicker-walled gourd will cause it to explode from the pressure differences. Thick walls are definitely preferred for strength (such as needed for containers) but they do not lend themselves to speedier drying processes. That preferred thickness becomes a barrier to successful greenscraping by keeping water in too thoroughly while the outside environment is evaporating as quickly as possible.
I have created a video of the greenscraping process if you want to see this method in action. Here’s my outline for greenscraping gourds.
• A safe working surface
• Bleach (just a capful or two)
• Rubber gloves
• Cloth scrubber
• Bucket with water
• Dull knife
• 2 plates
Make sure that the area you are working in won’t be adversely impacted if any of your bleach (or water with bleach) splashes or spills. I like to work on a piece of rigid plastic that has a lip. I lay my rags down on it so they can absorb any excess water from the dipped gourds. I also like to use gloves so the gourds don’t collect germs from my hands after dipping. This keeps the potential for mold-growing to a minimum.
Once your station is set up, scrape the outside layer (the green skin) off of the gourd to reveal the hard shell beneath. You’ll want to scrape off as much as possible so that the final scrubbing (with the cloth scrubber) is easier. Hold your knife at an angle and peel or scrape at will. I usually do this fairly quickly—only slowing down where there is a blemish or if my gourd is curved in a more difficult-to-reach way.
After the gourd is scraped free of its outer skin, dip it in the bleach water for 10 seconds or so. Take the gourd out and lay it on a rag. Use the cloth scrubber to clean off any green skin that remains. These are usually small streaks left from the imprecise stroking of the knife or areas near the stem, blossom end, or a blemish. If necessary, gently scrape hard-to-reach areas with the knife.
Dip the gourd into the bleach water one last time, then set onto a plate. Once you accrue several completely cleaned gourds, transfer them to a safe and undisturbed place to finish drying. Make sure that the gourds are not touching and that there is plenty of space around them for free-flowing air. I use old shoe racks set up in my studio to dry mine (as in that top photo). Check the gourds once a week or so. If you notice any mold starting up, simply wipe them down with a rag soaked in bleach water.
Depending on the thickness of the gourds and the heat and humidity of your drying space, the gourds should be dried and ready to work with in 6 to 12 weeks. Their color will slowly change, losing the green tones and turning more tan. When I think they’re ready I test mine by touching them to my cheek. They are room temperature when they are finished.
The photo below shows banana gourds at various stages after being picked.
Left to right: newly harvested, freshly greenscraped, greenscraped and dried for about 3 weeks, completely dried and altered for arting gournament, immature greenscraped gourd that has split, naturally curing and moldy gourd.
Whether greenscraping or letting your gourds cure naturally, I hope these articles have given you food for thought and more of an appreciation for how much work goes into preparing a gourd for utilitarian and creative endeavors. As always, “Gourd forth and prosper.”
Blythe Pelham is an artist that aims to enable others to find their grounding through energy work. She is in the midst of writing a cookbook and will occasionally share bits in her blogging here. She writes, gardens and cooks in Ohio. Find her online at Humings and Being Blythe, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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