Out of Our Gourds for Gourds

Good morning Everyone!

Mom and Kayla Working on Their Gourds

This weekend, my mom, who is visiting, Kayla and I had the chance to work on a craft project together.  My mom brought up two huge gourds, which she had allowed to dry for over a year, which she wanted to paint; one is to be a Christmas decoration, painted like a Santa, and the other is to be a Halloween decoration. 

The Picture They Knew I Was Taking

Well, I got a little curious, because it seemed odd to me that a plant would be developed solely for decorative purposes, and Mom couldn’t think of any food purposes behind the gourd, so I did what any reasonable 21st century individual would do – I googled “gourd.”  I found out several interesting things about them. 

The Picture They Did Not Know I Was Taking!

First, they are related to cucumbers and melons.  I wouldn’t have guessed either relationship, although had I seen the scientific name for the gourd family first, Cucurbitaceae, I might have been able to guess at the cucumber relationship. 

Hmmmm - Doesn't look much like a cucumber to me!

Second, they were brought to the United States around 10,000 years ago with the peoples who crossed over the land bridge which then existed on the Bering Straits.  Genetic tests have shown that the American bottle gourd is most closely related to the Asian bottle gourd.  The Asian bottle gourd is descended from the African bottle gourd. 

The gourd is not quite as big as Kayla, but close!

Third, and I find this most interesting, the gourd was the first domesticated plant in the Americas.  It was not grown as a food crop, but as a container.  The gourd itself is the fruit of the plant; its shell is strong and buoyant, and has been used for thousands of years as containers, for musical instruments, and fishing floats.  FN. 

Gourd fronts with finished base coat

Fast forward about 10000 years to my dining room table, where our gourd painting experience had begun.  Mom had downloaded directions on how to paint the Santa Claus from the internet, and had a much smaller example of what she wanted the Halloween gourd painted like, so art class was officially in session. 

Gourd Backs

We spent about three hours on Sunday afternoon working on them, and didn’t get much further than the base coats, but we had a lot of fun doing it!  I can’t help but wonder, though, if the gourds feel that they have taken a step down, from valued container or musical instrument, to simple decoration, but perhaps they are just grateful to still be useful even after 10,000 years!

Have a great day everyone!


FN.  See, “An Asian Origin for a 10,000-year-old domesticated plant in the Americas, ” from the Dec. 20, 2005 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America for further information if you are interested.

4 responses to “Out of Our Gourds for Gourds

  1. Very interesting. I have never heard of a gourd. Very cool idea to decorate them. Goards should also be happy after all these years they are taking a place in people’s homes. 🙂

    • In researching this post, I found there is even a society dedicated to gourds, so they must be more popular then I though! One popular thing to do with them here, where there are lakes, is to make multiple bird houses out of them for martins to nest in; the martins keep down the local mosquito population.

  2. I have a santa gourd that was Mrs. Huff’s,, put it out every year,, so fun

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