Dehydrated gourds are great for a variety of crafts, from birdhouses to fall decorations. The best part is that it's easy to dehydrate gourds for decorating. They take weeks to a few months to completely dehydrate, depending on size. Also, if you plant gourds, how and when you harvest them can make a big difference in the end result!
Method 1 of 3: Dehydrating the gourd shells
Step 1. Wash the gourds with soap and water, rinse and dry
It is the dirt and bacteria that make the gourds decompose, which prevents proper dehydration. To make sure that doesn't happen, rinse with warm water with a drop of mild detergent and wash the entire rind of each gourd. Rinse them when finished and then dry with a soft cloth.
Dry the entire gourd shell
Remember to be gentle when handling the gourds. If you cut or bruise the bark, it will be more susceptible to rot.
Step 2. Spray isopropyl alcohol or disinfectant on the gourds
Spray the outside area of the gourds with a disinfectant, but do not saturate. You can use an ordinary disinfectant, isopropyl alcohol placed in a spray bottle, or make your own disinfectant with 1 part bleach and 10 parts water.
- For example, if the batch of gourds is large, mix a cup of bleach with 10 cups of water.
- Dry the gourds if the disinfectant does not evaporate within a minute.
- If you prefer, you can use a handkerchief moistened with disinfectant in place of the spray.
Step 3. Spread the gourds over several layers of newspaper in a dry, slightly warm place
Place at least three or four sheets of newspaper on top of each other. Spread the gourds by laying them on their sides and not touching each other. This allows air to circulate, which helps the gourds to dry more evenly.
- To improve air circulation even more, you can place them on a grill, but this is not necessary.
- Hanging the gourds by the ropes with string is also an option.
- Leave the gourds on a shelf, counter, or even in an open area, but don't leave them in direct sunlight as this makes the color fade.
Step 4. Turn the gourds over once a day for a week or so, and change the damp paper
Take a look at the gourds every day for the first week, turning them over whenever you see them. This way, no part of the gourds will stay touching the newspaper for more than a day (or a little longer), as this doesn't let them dehydrate.
- If the newspaper below the gourds is damp or wet, replace it with a new one so as not to let any mold appear.
- No matter how carefully you choose, wash and store the gourds, some will rot anyway. Immediately discard any that have soft spots or have shriveled up.
- You can proceed when the gourd shells are hard and shiny.
Method 2 of 3: Ending the Dehydration Process
Step 1. Clean the gourds with disinfectant after one week
After a week, the shell of the gourds will harden. Once that happens, it's time to take them to a dark place to finish dehydrating. Clean the skin of all with isopropyl alcohol, household cleaning disinfectant or diluted bleach, then dry thoroughly with a soft cloth.
Moisture helps mold formation, so dry the gourds thoroughly
Step 2. Take the gourds to a dry, dark place with a mildly warm temperature
When you were dehydrating the gourd husks, it didn't matter if they were exposed to a little light. However, following the dehydration process, the gourds need to be kept in a dark place, as the light can fade the color over time. Take them to a place where they won't be in the way and place them on sheets of newspaper again.
- Leave them in the attic, in the back of the closet, or in a basement that stays warm.
- If you don't have a lot of space, hang them with string over the cables.
Step 3. Allow the gourds to dehydrate for three to four weeks, turning them over sometimes
Since the husks are already dry at this stage, they don't need to be turned every day. However, you should still turn them every two or three days and discard any gourd that has become soft or shriveled.
It is common for some gourds to create mold on the bark. This won't stop them from dehydrating, and in some cases it might even bring out their color. However, you can remove the mold with a dry or slightly damp cloth if you like
Gourds can give off an unpleasant smell as they dehydrate, so it's best to keep them away from the high traffic areas of the house if possible.
Step 4. Continue turning the gourds until they are completely dehydrated
How long this will take depends on their size. You'll know the gourd is dry when you can hear the seeds swaying inside it as it shakes.
Small gourds can only take two or three weeks to dry, while larger ones, such as those used to make birdhouses, can take up to six months to get to the point
Step 5. Decorate your dehydrated gourds
Once they're dehydrated, you can paint, draw, carve or do whatever your imagination wants! When you're done, seal the gourd with wax glue or clear lacquer to help preserve it, especially if you've carved or cut the shell. The gourds will last for months even without applying any preservation product.
If you apply a coat of clear lacquer, the dehydrated gourd will last for several years
Method 3 of 3: Harvesting gourds to dehydrate
Step 1. Harvest the gourds when the handle starts to wither and turn brown
If you harvest a gourd before it is fully ripe, it will not dehydrate as well and the chances of it rotting will be greater. A good way to tell if a gourd is ripe is to look at the handle. Once it's shriveled and brown, the gourd is probably okay.
Other signs are: opaque and hardened skin
Step 2. Be gentle when handling the gourds
Try not to damage the peel and do not test the point using your nails. This can leave holes, bruises or chips that will become a gateway for insects and bacteria, which accelerates decomposition.
Step 3. Cut the vine with a sharp knife, leaving 5 to 10 cm of handle
Leaving some of the handle in the gourd helps to avoid bruises and cuts on the vine, as well as helping to hold the fruit without having to touch the skin. Dehydrated cables are a good decorative “accessory” for them too.
Prefer to use a knife than twisting and pulling the handle so as not to hurt the fruit.