Harvesting Tips - From Canadian Gourder, October 2003:
To the first time grower a very important question is "When do I harvest my gourds?" and "What do I do with them once I do harvest?” The key to drying gourds is good air circulation. You do not want to harvest them too early, do not take them in the house to dry and don't, under any circumstances, bore holes in them to hasten the drying process. Bacteria will get in that hole and the chances are very good you will lose that gourd.
As the gourds dry they will turn from green to tan. There will be a dark black mold and a white waxy skin which will develop during the drying process. A gourd contains a lot of water and it evaporates through the shell. This is what causes the mold. The mold is what causes all the beautiful patterns in the dried shell so don't throw them away thinking they have rotted...they should be moldy!
At this time of year the gourds are large and to some they may look mature. They are not however mature enough to pick. DO NOT PICK ANY GOURDS UNTIL AFTER THE FIRST HARD FROST which in most places in Canada is October. For those of you that trellised you can leave your gourds on the vine all winter. The ice and snow does not hurt them and actually aids in the drying process.
For those of you that grew on the ground you will want to cut the gourd from the vine (after the vine is totally dead) leaving 3 - 4" of stem. If the stem breaks off it is not a tragedy but try to be gentle so you do have a stem. Put your gourds up on wooden pallets or on chicken wire. This will allow the air to circulate around the gourd. Throughout the winter you may want to turn your gourds but this is not essential. I normally go out once a month and turn the large ones - the small ones I don't bother with. Good luck everyone...just remember good air circulation is the key. If you follow the few simple instructions you will have beautiful dry gourds in the spring just waiting for crafting!
Pam Grossi, Northern Dipper Farms