Do your gourds look like this?

Stop! Don’t throw away that moldy gourd!

If you have grown your own gourds you’ve definitely seen this. Curing gourds may take 1 to 6 months depending on the type and size of the gourd. The mold is part of the process. I’ve found out the gourds with the most mold are actually the easiest to clean. I can’t tell you how many people have told me that they just threw away their moldy gourds. Don’t do that next time. Under all that mold is a gem just waiting to be uncovered.  Be patient this year’s harvest will be ready for art next season.

Tips on harvesting and curing:

Gourds are ready for harvest when the stems dry and turn brown. It is best to harvest gourds before frost. Mature gourds that have a hardened shell will survive a light frost, but less developed gourds will be damaged. The hard-shell gourd will tolerate a light frost; but gourd color may be slightly affected. Gourds should be cut from the vine with a few inches of the stem attached. Take care not to bruise the gourds during harvest, as this increases the likelihood of decay during the curing process. Discard any fruit that is rotten, bruised or immature. After harvesting, gourds should be cleaned with soap and water, dried, and rubbing alcohol applied to the surface.

Place clean, dry fruit in a dark, well-ventilated area. Arrange gourds in a single layer and make certain that the fruits do not touch each other. A slatted tray will allow air circulation around the gourds. Check gourds daily and discard fruit that show signs of decay or mold and any that develop soft spots. The internal drying process takes much longer for the gourds to fully harden. When you can hear the seeds rattle inside it is safe to assume your gourd is dry. – Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet

Check out these books on growning gourds

Book Gourds in Your Garden

Book the Complete Squash






There is another type of mold to look out for. The mold often found inside the gourd when you cut it open to clean and decorate. This mold can be dangerous to inhale.

This is a very brief and simple guideline to handling Molds:

• use common sense

• you can’t have too much ventilation

• wear a mask

• keep the mold damp and sterilize the surface then dry it thoroughly.

Not to worry – a properly cleaned and finished gourd poses no risk to its owner!

However, if you plan to work with unfinished gourds, you must recognize that the drying process produces a fair amount of mold – both on the exterior surface and inside the gourd. Mold spores can be extremely small – less than 5 microns, in some cases – and they can cause health problems if inhaled or absorbed through the skin.

If you are new to gourd crafting, you quickly will learn your own sensitivities. For example, many people will notice a “metallic” taste in the mouth or throat when exposed to gourd dust and/or mold. Other symptoms are fits of coughing, running eyes and/or nose, or other cold- or allergy-like symptoms. However, even if you don’t notice any of these symptoms, we strongly recommend that you follow these basic health precautions:

• Avoid direct skin contact with moldy gourds that have not yet been cleaned. Latex gloves, like those used by the health-care industry, can be purchased by the box at a pharmacy or large chain store. When scrubbing moldy gourds, wear rubber dishwashing gloves.

• Avoid inhaling dust particles and mold spores. A high-quality mask or respirator designed to prevent inhalation of minute particles should be worn whenever you are cleaning the exterior, cutting, sanding, or cleaning the interior. We use 3M Model R-6211HC dual-cartridge respirator assembly masks, but other similar masks will be equally effective.

• Work outside whenever possible, particularly when cleaning. If you must work indoors, make sure you have good ventilation. A dust-control system is strongly recommended.

• Remember that dust particles and mold spores will cling to your clothing and hair. After cleaning, cutting, or sanding, wash up thoroughly and change into clean clothes and wash what you were wearing. 

To learn more about gourds, gourd art and the history of the gourd around the world come to this program. Thursday, July 28, 7:00–8:30 pm

Around the World with Gourds

Learn about the hard-shelled gourd and how it has traveled the globe for centuries. Be inspired by the many different cultures that have used gourds as you embellish and decorate your own.

Registration required. Call 785-580-4540.

Marvin Auditorium 101C