Drying ornamental gourds for home decoration is not difficult. The small ornamental gourds have a thick flesh and need special attention when harvesting. The fruit should be fully matured when picked. When the stem of the gourd begins to dry, carefully cut it from the vine, leaving a small piece of the stem attached. This adds interest to the gourd and prevents disease entry into the fruit.
Be careful not to bruise or scratch the fruit. Any damage may ruin its appearance or cause the gourd to rot. Wipe each gourd with a cloth dampened with rubbing alcohol to remove any soil and disease organisms. Very dirty fruit may be washed with soap and a disinfectant.
The clean gourds should be dried and cured for about a week in a well-ventilated area. Handle the gourds carefully during the drying period. Space the fruits so they are not touching each other. During this period, the skin will become hard and tough. After three more weeks the fruit should be thoroughly dried. Large gourds, such as dipper gourds, have a thin rind and will cure and dry faster than the small, thick-fleshed gourds.
To aid in drying, small holes may be made in the bottom of the fruit with an ice pick. Three to five holes may be made depending on the size of the gourd. The ice pick should be treated with a disinfectant before using.
After drying, the gourds may be painted. Spray enamel in various colors or metallic colors such as silver or gold may be applied to dull or faded gourds. Also, to enhance the true color of the gourds apply a coat of clear shellac.
-- Dennis Bejot is extension director for K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County office. For more information call the extension office at 843-7058.