To me, one of the fun things about gardening is trying different things just to see what you might come up with. The other year, I grew a gourd that is originally from India called a snake gourd. This gourd grows a long, slender fruit which, while it doesn’t exactly look like a snake, you can see how it got its name.
If it is trellised, it will grow straight but if it is on the ground, it tends to coil around a bit and give a somewhat snakelike appearance. The neat thing is it might grow to a length of four or five feet.
I have enjoyed growing a variety of gourds over the years. Bird nest gourds, bottles gourds and different types of ornamental gourds. Of course, all the vining type plants can cover a lot of ground so it might be difficult to create room in your garden. One way to help with this is to create vertical space for the climbing plants. If you are limited on room in your garden, it helps when you can make a trellis to keep the vines off the ground.
When I planted my snake gourds, I used a variety of materials to make trellises for about half of the plants. I used some long wooden pallets and also tree branch poles as supports for those long quick growing vines. I wanted some of my gourds to hang straight down but I also wanted some of them to curl up on the ground. I should also mention that I made room for a lot of plants. Those vines seemed to grow several feet per day and it wasn’t long until I started having little baby gourds (snakes) growing everywhere.
I do tend to go overboard in many of my projects and this turned out to be one of them. I ended up with about 45 full size gourds. Many were straight but many had some interesting shapes to them. One in particular was curled around with the stem sticking up in the air, much like a curled up snake. Pretty cool!
I picked one of my early gourds that was about four feet long and took it with me that summer when I would speak about heirloom vegetables. Most people had never seen a gourd such as this and thought it was pretty neat. At my last talk of the summer, I gave it to a young girl who was there with her family. She was thrilled!
The previous year, I had received second place in the largest gourd competition at the 4-H fair with my large bottle type gourd. The winner was 59 inches (length and girth) while my gourd measured only 47 inches. So the next year, I was ready for the competition with my 72 inch snake gourd. Bring it on!
Alas, while my gourd was pretty impressive, there were no other entries that year. While it was a somewhat hollow victory, it was still a kick to have that big gourd displayed during the run of the fair.
- RELATED: Entering homegrown veggies in the Elkhart County 4-H Fair brings the community together, Sept. 14
I managed to give away quite a few of the four dozen or so gourds I harvested that year. When they are properly dried, most gourds will form a hard shell and are very durable. I have seen gourds made into birdhouses and many other interesting objects. Many times, people will paint the cured gourd with some spectacular results. Many of my gourds ended up as a part of fall decorations and I actually contributed a number of them to my son’s outdoor wedding.
I suppose I should mention that while I never ate any of the snake gourds I grew, they are edible. Typically, they are sliced and cooked like zucchini with only the young plants being used. Now that I think about it, I don’t know why I never cooked up a batch to try for myself. I like to try new things! Although, I aim to be more sensible since my little skunk cabbage tasting incident a few years back. That might be a story for another time.
With about 700 varieties of gourds in the world, the size, shape and colors are nearly endless. If you have the space and want to try something a little different, plants some gourds. I will almost guarantee you will like the results!