(Click on the title for a link to Johnson Seeds)
Gourds, or as they are more commonly known, ugly fruit, are a staple product in many societies. They were one of the first plants to be cultivated throughout the world and have been in use for thousands of years. The gourd is the only plant that experts believe to have spanned the entire globe, which is surprising, as you can’t eat them. For thousands of years people have decorated gourds by cutting and scraping images using the sharp edge or tip of a hot stick. This method of incising and burning is still being used in some South American countries. Many cultures have been and are still using gourds for; bowls, vessels, hats, musical instruments and many other utilitarian purposes. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes and vary in thickness from eggshell thin to an inch or more in thickness.
Hard-shelled gourds are members of the squash and pumpkin family. Instead of having a soft skin like a pumpkin, hard-shelled gourds have a very tough outer skin. When dry, the exterior of these gourds turn into a wood like surface.
Gourds are easily grown in temperate climates such as ours; however, there are specialty farms that plant hard-shelled gourd crops specifically for artistic purposes. These growers ship their gourds worldwide to artists, crafts people and a variety of businesses.
Today, as was true many centuries ago, artists combine their talents and perspectives in combination with the gourd shapes and textures, to create unique works of art from nature. Artists embellish gourds by painting, wood burning and carving designs into the hard surface.
When you plan the vegetable patch this year why not try to grow a few gourds. Johnson’s Seeds are selling packs of seeds this year and they are aiming them at children to buy. When they are grown they can be painted to make weird and wacky animals
EASY TO GROW
Sow seeds indoors: April and May. Sow seeds in pots or trays and place on a warm windowsill. Keep warm. Place the young seedlings outdoors for a few days in late May and avoid frosts. Plant out 60cm (24in) apart. Keep well watered. The plants will flower from August to October. Allow the gourds to dry for a few days and then varnish or paint them to look like animals.