Gorgeous Gourds (cont)
By: National Gardening Association Editors
Harvest hard-shelled gourds only after they mature on the vine. They are ready when the stem and tendril next to the gourd have browned, and the gourd's skin has begun to turn an ivory color and feels firm. Cut off the gourds, leaving at least 2 inches of stem on the fruit.
Mature gourds can withstand frost, but it may affect the skin color. After curing, gourds harvested before frost tend to be tan or mahogany, while those harvested after frost will take on a curly maple appearance. It's best to pick the gourds as soon as the vines are dead (especially on trellised vines that may not be able to support heavy fruits), and to move the gourds indoors to a dry, well-ventilated place for curing and drying.
Curing and Drying
Bring harvested gourds into a cool (50° to 60° F), well-ventilated room. Clean away any soil from the surface, and wipe the gourds with a mild bleach solution (1 ounce liquid bleach to 2 quarts water). Don't try to save any gourds that have cracked or broken skin, since they will rot eventually. To cure the gourds, place them, not touching, on a wire-mesh or slotted tray out of direct sun.
Depending on the gourd's size, shape, and skin thickness, it can take up to six months to completely dry inside. As gourds dry, they may develop a fuzzy white growth on the shell. This is natural and, as long as the shell isn't soft, there's no cause for alarm. You can remove the mold by periodically wiping the shell with the mild bleach solution, or leave the mold to form interesting patterns on the skin. The gourd is finished drying when it feels much lighter and the outer skin peels away to reveal a brown or tan inner shell. You will also hear the seeds rattle inside.
To hasten the drying process, slice off the top of the gourd right after harvest, and scrape out as much of the seedy pulp as you can without harming the shell. Then fill the inside with water, and let sit for a week. The remaining flesh will turn gelatinous and mucky but will be easier to scrape out.