This fall, when you are at a farm stand picking a pumpkin, check out the ornamental gourds. They can be wonderfully warty, striped with bands of colors or even spiky. Some are named for what they look like, like the scallop, the crookneck and the spiny cucumber. These gourds aren’t for eating; they are for decoration, and there are tons of things you can do with them.
Use thick craft paint, so the paint doesn’t flake as the gourds dry.
Halloween and Thanksgiving: Paint gourds to make gnomes, ghosts and monsters, Indians and Pilgrims and farm animals like pigs and geese.
Winter: Paint snow people and make reindeer by adding sticks for legs and antlers.
Have a grown-up cut open the gourd with a sharp knife, and scoop out the flesh and seeds.
Make flower vases and candleholders, candy corn dishes and even birdhouses.
Pile gourds in a big bowl and add pretty fall leaves and bittersweet berries, anything you think looks nice.
Gourds are members of the plant family cucurbits. Like their edible cousins—pumpkins, cucumbers, squashes and melons—gourds grow on long, trailing vines that have big leaves and flowers. There are more than 700 species of gourds, and people have been growing them for more than 10,000 years. In the New World, they were first grown for their tasty seeds.
Gourds eventually dry out and become very hard. Larger dried gourds make many useful things, like bowls, cups and storage containers. They are also great as musical instruments, like shakers, maracas, horns and drums. People all over the world use dried gourds this way, often etching or burning beautiful designs onto them. The Masai in East Africa use gourds like bottles to bring their favorite drink of fermented milk wherever they go. The South Americans use calabash gourds that grow on trees to hold yerba maté tea. One unusual gourd is the luffa; the dried inside is used as a bath scrub. Some tribes in Papua New Guinea make fancy underpants out of dried gourds! That doesn’t sound very comfortable, does it?
BUY YOUR GOURDS HERE
Just a few of the places to find gourds on the East End: Krupski’s Pumpkin Farm, Main Road, Peconic; Anderson Farms, Route 58, Riverhead; Gabrielsen’s Country Farm, Main Road, Jamesport; Hank’s Pumpkintown, County Road 39, Southampton; Rottkamp’s Fox Hollow Farm Stand, Sound Avenue, Riverhead.
In the early 1800s, gourds were used as money in Haiti; their country’s coins are still called gourdes today. Imagine having to carry around a bunch of gourds every time you wanted to go shopping.
Gourds and pumpkins can grow to amazing sizes, some record-breaking gourds weigh in at more than 900 pounds!