This spring I dug several small holes in the manure pile and planted a packet’s worth of mixed gourd seeds, then stood back. The gourds took off until they covered the entire pile and spread out twenty feet in all directions. The rich growing medium allows the plants to form huge leaves that over shadow any weeds. It’s hard to tell how many gourds will be produced, the vines are too thick to allow much searching. On the outer edges I found at least three distinct types: round, warty, green and yellow striped, long-necked, warty white and green with yellow stripes and round, warty white with yellow stripes.There may be other kinds, the seed packet showed many varieties such as white horned gourds and white, necked ones. Harvesting gourds is always fun due to the great variation of fruits and the surprise of finding something new.
Since I feed my horses and chickens any excess, damaged or too large squash and pumpkins, there are always volunteer plants around the barnyard in the spring. This year there are some unusual combinations, formed as the bees cross-pollinate. One (photo to left) appears to be a mix of patty pan summer squash and white and yellow warty gourd. The fruit are held on a bush like the summer squash and are flattish, but have the striations and warts of a gourd. These will not be edible, but will make fun decorations. The horses and chickens will eat them, as well.
Another mutant volunteer, photo below, looks like a cross between a patty pan summer squash and a dumpling winter squash. The fruit are huge, 8″-10″ across and still growing. These may be edible, we’ll find out. They will make pretty fall decorations. I might even save some of the seeds and see if they breed true next year, they are very unusual. The color of the squash is white skin, paler than the photo shows, with green lines and mottles. The skin is hard like a winter squash.
In a couple weeks, the first light frosts will kill the leaves making it much easier to find and harvest the gourds. After harvest, gourds are cleaned of dirt, washed with a weak bleach solution, and allowed to air dry for several weeks. After some drying, they can be polished with floor wax to bring out a nice shine.