Arlington Gourd Patch

Member of Texas Gourd Society Est 2004

Know Your Gourds

 

A gourd is a plant of the family Cucurbitaceae. Some gourds are edible and others are ornamental and utilitarian. This article is confined to the discussion of ornamental and utilitarian gourd types. There are three basic categories of ornamental and utilitarian gourds:

Lagenaria Gourd Types

 

Gourds of the Lagenaria family are hard-shelled and very fleshy; they are approximately 90% water when they are harvested in the fall. These gourds require 6 months or more to dry. They are large & utilitarian, averaging 9" to 12" diameter or more.

Refer to this chart from the American Gourd Society website to see an artist's rendering of the hard shell gourds listed below.

  • Banana – about the size and shape of the fruit. This gourd is good for crafting rattles, for sculpture, for jewelry, and for Christmas tree ornaments.
  • Basketball – about the size and shape of a basketball. These gourds are used to create bowls, baskets, lamps, lamp shades, permanent jack-o’lanterns, or globes.
  • Birdhouse or Purple Martin – This is probably the most commonly grown hard-shell gourd. It is somewhat like a round-bottom Hershey’s kiss, averaging 8” in diameter and 12” tall.
  • Bottle – sometimes called "lady gourd" or "dumb bell" because of its shape. This gourd was the traditional water bottle because a thong could be tied abound its “waist” to make carrying easy. Bottle gourds range from miniature (3” tall) to giant (24” or more). They are used in crafts such as lamps, dolls, and vases.
  • Bushel – also called “nine gallon”. Bushel gourds are often 60” or more around and can weigh upwards of 200 pounds at harvest. They are used for bowls, baskets, minnow buckets, and for bragging.
  • Canteen – also called "sugar bowl" or "sugar trough". Canteen gourds are close to the size of the plastic or metal canteens Boy Scouts carry. Decorated gourd canteens were popular 19th-century souvenirs from French beaches. Canteen gourds were once used as wheels for toy wheelbarrows in Mexico.
  • Club – also called "Caveman’s Club". These are shaped like the club we always saw him carry in cartoons. The gourds are about 5” in diameter and 24” or more in length.
  • Dipper – Dipper gourds feature a long neck with a bulb. Short-handled dippers have about a 12” handle; long-handled dippers have been seen up to 80” in length. The bulb is usually about 5” in diameter. These were traditionally used as a dipper for drinking and cooking; sometimes called "baton", "snake", or "longissima."
  • Kettle – Kettle gourds are big brothers to birdhouse gourds; they may be up to about 16” in diameter.
  • Maranka – also called "dolphin". These are like a short-handled dipper with a large bowl. However, they have a unique, distinct ridge pattern on the bowl. Maranka gourds are sometimes used as houses for small birds.
  • Penguin-powder horn – If a crafter adds eyes and a painted tuxedo to this gourd, it is a perfect penguin. An older use was to hold gunpowder. These gourds are about 4” in diameter, tapering to about an inch at the stem.
  • Snake – a uniformly cylindrical gourd up to 36” long and about 3” in diameter.
  • Tobacco Box – The Tobacco Box gourd is shaped much like a canteen gourd, but up to 12” in diameter. It has a raised top at the stem more than a canteen gourd has.
  • Warty – This is a pear-shaped gourd, larger than the pear fruit or the pear gourd. Covered with sturdy warts, this gourd is difficult to clean. It is often used in crafts as owl or sheep figures.

Cucurbita Gourd Types

 

The Cucurbita ornamental gourds are smaller than the Lagenaria family of gourds. They also have a lower water content, but are more difficult to cure. The small fruits are colorful and varied in shape. These gourds must be harvested before the first frost or they will be ruined. Ornamental gourds may be polished with floor wax to enhance the colors and to help preserve the gourd. The skin color begins to fade in 4 to 5 months.

Refer to this chart from the American Gourd Society website to see an artist's rendering of the ornamental gourds listed below.

  • Egg – also called "nest egg". This gourd has the characteristic shape, color and size of a hen’s egg. It is often used as darning egg; it may also be placed in nests to trick hens into laying.
  • Orange – This gourd has the shape, color, and size of the orange fruit.
  • Spoon – This is approximately a 6” dipper gourd. It is brightly colored green and yellow. This one may be split lengthwise to make two spoons; it is also used to create doll heads in crafting.
  • Bicolor - This small gourd is green at the bottom and yellow at the top (stem end).
  • Pear – This gourd grows in green-striped and white versions, with the size and shape of a pear.
  • Flat – This green-striped, button-shaped gourd is about 3” in diameter.
  • Crown of Thorns – also called "finger", "Ten Commandments", or "holy gourd". This creamy to green striped gourd has about a 4” oblong shape with a ring of thorns or fingers around the blossom end.
  • Warty – This gourd is most often orange. It is pear-shaped and is densely covered with protrusions like warts.
     

Luffa Gourd Types

 

Luffa gourds are sometimes called "vegetable sponges", "sponge gourds", or "dishrag gourds" because of their tough, fibrous interior. Once the gourd is dried and cleaned, the sponge inside is removed and prepared for use. The sponge may be used as a bath sponge and is also used in making soap. See this article from the American Gourd Society website more information on luffa gourds.

Some common types of Luffa are listed below.

  • Ridged Luffa – (Luffa acutangula) gets its name from ten ridges in its papery outer shell. This zucchini-like fruit grows about 3” in diameter and 12” long.
  • Luffa – (Luffa cylindrical) also called "dish rag" gourd. This is the most commonly grown Luffa. It can can grow to 4” diameter and 30” long.
  • Mini Luffa – also called "hedgehog". This Luffa is about the size of a golf ball; it is covered with spikes. The Mini Luffa have a very fine inner sponge.