Gourds are the oddities of the natural world. They are actually a fruit in the cucurbitaceae family and part of the bigoniceae family which includes the Calabash Tree. These fruits come into their own in the fall. Their outrageous looks are unmistakeable at roadside stands. Some of them are downright homely looking. But they never fail to make me smile. Warty and wondrous, while some others are quite smooth and curvy, I often ponder on what mother nature was thinking when she created such fruits as these! If they were people, they would be the independent child in the family who dances to her own unique song. With speckles, stripes and blots of color, they are an artist’s dream All swirvey lines and contours, running your hands over these alien looking fruits is sometimes like driving over an old rutted dirt road.
Open one, (I found a mormordica charantia the other day at a local arboretum) and they are a wonder of order and design. This one was packed with rows of beautiful red, plump large raisin size seeds but without all the wrinkles. The red color of the seeds was the color of birman rubies, a beautiful bright clear red. The gourds had opened up on their own and I felt like I had discovered a secret treasure, and had entered a forbidden land. They do come from exotic corners of the earth, but they can be grown just about anywhere that is sunny and dry. If you let them grow on the ground, their “necks” will curve and curl around, if hung from some type of support high above the ground you will get a gourd with an elongated neck. Lovely to look at and quite practical, they are the unsung heroes of the fall garden. Don’t forget the ugly-gorgeous gourds to welcome the fall/winter garden and your sense of wonder!