Questions on: Gourds
Ron Smith, Horticulturist, NDSU Extension Service
Q: I feel like an idiot. Your Web site says to drill a hole in the blossom end of a decorative gourd to dry it out. Which end is the blossom end? (e-mail reference)
A: The blossom end is the end opposite the stem. Gourds, pumpkins, tomatoes and even zucchini squash have stem ends, where the fruit is attached, and blossom ends, where the fruit developed. It is interesting to observe this happening on cucumbers or squash because there are separate sexes on the same plant. The male flowers never develop fruit, so once the pollen is spent, they simply whither and die. The fertilized female flower has an ovary or several ovules within that are fertilized by the germinating pollen tube, which then begin swelling and become the fruit we enjoy. Shortly after fertilization is complete, the female flower withers and falls off the fruit 99 percent of the time.
Q: I grew some apple and swan gourds for the first time this year and I love them. I picked them and they have been curing for three weeks but I couldn't wait to paint some. I painted them and coated them with polyurethane. How long will they last? (E-mail reference)
A: If you drilled a small hole in the blossom end to allow for air to enter and dry them from the inside, they should last an average human life span.
Q: It seems like I remember reading in Hortiscope information on drying gourds. If I am correct, could you refresh my memory on the proper procedure to dry gourds that will be used for decorative purposes. (E-mail reference)
A: You did read it some time ago. But here is the procedure again. Harvest the mature gourds, drill a small hole in the blossom end and hang them up to dry in an appropriate location (basement, garage, etc.). It is a good practice to wipe them down with a solution of rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide prior putting them up for storage to remove any possible surface spores that may cause mischief later on. When the seeds inside sound like a dry "rattle" they are dry. Painting them with clear shellac then also protects them for long preservation. If shellac is not wanted, then a high quality wax can be used.
Q: I raised some bird house gourds this year and believe it or not, there are some 12-inch gourds coming! Now I don't know what to do next! Should they be left on the vine until it freezes? Would I hang them in a cool, dry place to cure and how long will that take? (Fessenden, N.D., e-mail)
A: Yes, allow them to stay on the vine until our first frost. Then harvest and drill a small hole in the blossom end to allow air in. Hang in a cool, dry location until you hear the seed inside rattle. Then you can cut, paint or do whatever to your heart's content!
Q: I recently harvested about a dozen gourds of all sizes and shapes. Now I would like to know how to preserve them to keep them from shriveling and rotting. I plan to use them in a "horn of plenty" for decoration. (Eureka, S.D.)
A: Drill a small hole in the blossom end of the gourd and hang them to dry. When the seeds rattle inside when the gourd is shaken, it is dry enough to either wax or shellac.
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