Gourds are a type of fruit within the pumpkin, cucumber, and melon families. The cucurbita family of gourds tend to be smaller, with softer skin, while the lagenaria family are larger, with harder skin and more flesh inside. There are a number of different varieties of gourds, though somewhat surprisingly, very few are used for cooking. Instead, common uses for gourds include decoration, the creation of musical instruments, carvings, and tools, among others. Traditionally associated with autumn decor, gourds can make an excellent choice for indoor and outdoor decoration.
Gourds come in various colors, including greens, browns, yellows, oranges, and reds. Gourds typically have very tough shells and fibrous inner flesh, which is what makes them virtually inedible. Displayed on their own or with a mix of autumn leaves and other fall decorations, these different colored gourds can make great centerpieces on a table. Some people also choose to showcase gourds outside, such as with pumpkins or corn stalks, for a beautiful autumn display.
Other common uses for gourds include drying the outer shell and scraping out the flesh to make a hollow container. Gourds have a wooden appearance when dried, and are quite sturdy. There are many different tips to be found online for drying gourds, but many suggest harvesting gourds at the end of the season, leaving about two inches of stem attached. Gourds are typically considered ready to harvest when the stems turn brown and dry up.
Place the gourds in a dry, cool, dark place where they can get plenty of airflow, and turn them regularly to prevent rot. Fleshier gourds, such as those from the lagenaria family, can take longer to dry than others; most gourds take four to six months to dry completely. Additionally, it is common for gourds to emit an unpleasant odor while they are drying, so it is a good idea to keep them separate from living space. When gourds are tapped and make a hollow sound, they are generally finished drying; they will also feel much lighter when picked up.
Dried gourds may be left whole and used for display, or they may be cut, hollowed, and carved into items such as birdhouses, bowls, pitchers, or mugs, among others. These are just a few common uses for gourds. Some cultures use hollowed gourds for musical instruments, masks, or tools. Growing these bright, colorful gourds at home is relatively simple, and one may be able to find many common uses for gourds around the house.