The humble gourd is quite possibly the most versatile plant that a gardener could raise in their vegetbale patch. Their obvious use as a food source is unquestionable but most gardeners prefer to grow these for other purposes instead.
The many shapes and sizes of gourds lend them to being used for more practical and decorative uses. Here are ten of the best gourd offerings:
The most obvious use of a gourd is when Halloween rolls around each year. The traditional Jack-o-lantern is a carved pumpkin with holes shaped into the shell to allow the light out. A fairy candle placed inside illuminates the gourd and while it may be most expected of a pumpkin, candles are quite a decorative use of gourds and their different shapes and sizes lend very well to this.
A birdhouse, or bird-feeder, constructed from a single gourd is a also another creative use of this vegetable. The gourd lends itself well to this use because of its bulbuous base and strong neck that allows it to be hung outdoors. A hole is drilled into the side of the gourd and your local birdlife can enter/exit at their discretion.
Decorative Gourd (Gourd Pyrography)
Gourd pyrography is the art of creating burned designs on the outside of a gourd. Provided the gourd is dry the shell can be scarred with burning or painted with food dyes or ochre paints. These can be turned into objet d’arts to adorn the house or utilised in more specific ways such as salt and pepper shakers, candle holders etc.
One very interesting use of the gourd is creating a banjo from one. While this may not be something that the average DIYer can achieve it is still a very creative use of this vegetable. The banjo gourd originated in the 18th century and still inspires instrument craftsmen. If you want some plans for building your own here is a very useful site with step-by-step illustrated plans.
And, of course, banjoes aren’t the only musical instruments that can be made out of gourds. Rattles, drums, thumb pianos and even mouth organs can be fashioned from a gourd. The primitive foundation of these instruments is a testament to how versatile a gourd can be. Here’s a link to check out some great gourd musical instruments.
Another great use of the humble gourd is fashioning them into vases. Due to their bulbuous shape they are able to support themselves in an upright position, with a little flattening of their bottom, and hold anything from water to flowers to anything else that can be held in a normal vase.
A gourd doll is another creative use of these vegetables. Children’s craft activities can explore the many shapes and diverse sizes of these fruits but they are also becoming a crafters delight in recent years. Even Amish settlers were known for their highly crafted gourd dolls.
Mate is a drink that originated in many South American countries and is traditionally drunk out of a hollowed out calabash gourd and drunk through a metal straw. The drink is infused using leaves of the yerba-mate (a sub-tropical type of holly). The mate gourd shouldn’t be any bigger than something you can hold in your hands but western interpretations can often be much larger. More info here.
Probably the funkiest use of gourds is by creating them into speakers. Here they are used as speakers for an iPod but there’s no reason that they couldn’t be crafted into more substantial accessories for your home stereo. Stay tuned for the headphone version….
Finally, the gourd is a vegetable so its best use is as a food source. While we often create masterpieces with pumpkins, gourds can be overlooked. Here are some recipes to help you do more than just create ornaments with a gourd.