Plant of The Month
Bottle Gourds are an abundant climbing plant that produce a range of different sized and shaped fruits depending on the variety. Not only do they produce a huge amount of food but they can also be dried to use as bowls, cups, bottles, and other vessels or containers.
So far this season each vine has produced over 30kg of food with the potential for much more! Once you get to know how to use the bottle gourd it may just become one of the most used vegetables in your garden.
What parts of Bottle Gourd are edible?
Sow seeds in spring- summer.
Warm sunny location
Help train the vine up structures. Prune older leaves to improve airflow. Hand pollinate when possible.
Feed with compost teas and keep well mulched.
Rats, aphids, snails.
Harvest when large and still green for eating or leave to dry out for bottles.
Grows easily from seed.
Why Grow Bottle Gourd?
Here are some of the many reasons to grow Bottle Gourds
- Easy to grow
- One plant provides an abundance!
- Climbing vine – vertical gardening
- Cover or create shade for the garden
- Versatile crop
- Make bowls or vessels
- Base crop to make many dishes
- Grows well in containers
Popular Bottle Gourd Varieties
Gourds come in many different shapes.
New Guinea Bean – Lagenaria siceraria – Italian heiloom. Popular in India where it grows easily. Large pale green tube-like gourds that can grow over 1m if left. Harvest at 40cm for eating. creamy white flesh simular to Zucchini.
Birdhouse Gourd – Lagenaria siceraria – Round bowl-shaped gourds with a narrow neck that can be used green as a zucchini substitute or left to dry and make into bowls and hanging bird feeders.
Round Bottle Gourd – Lagenaria siceraria – Large round bottle gourds that are perfect for making bowls. Can be eaten when young and green.
Mini bottle Gourd – Lagenaria siceraria – Popular for crafts. Round on the bottom then a skinny center with another bowl at the top similar to an hourglass shape.
Cucuzza Squash – Lagenaria siceraria – Slim elongated pale yellow-green gourd. Can be used as a Zucchini substitute.
Speckled Swan or Gooseneck Gourd – Lagenaria siceraria – Dark green with light speckles. Bowl-shaped base with a curved neck to look like a swan. Very decorative gourds.
When to Plant
Gourds love warm weather! Plant your seedlings out into the garden after your last frost when the weather is starting to warm up. Seeds can be started indoors until it is warm enough to go into the garden.
How to Grow
- Choose a sunny spot with 6-8 hours of sunlight or dappled part shade.
- Plant seeds direct or in seed trays first.
- Ensure you have a decent-sized trellis or arbor for them to grow up. Bottle gourds are vigorous growing similar to a pumpkin. It is best to have them up off the ground. Pergola-type structures or tunnels work best so that the bottle gourds can hang down.
- Keep new plants well watered, especially during summer
- Prune older leaves off that are starting to go brown or damaged to allow more airflow. Bottle gourds like pumpkins can get powdery mildew in wet or humid weather.
- Hand pollinate to ensure successful harvests. I have found even with bees about hand-pollinating is often necessary. Remove the petals from the male flower (which has no baby fruit on it) and dust the female flowers with pollen (they have baby fruit at the base of the flower)
Plants will grow quickly in late summer and may need help to be trained or directed in the right direction to remain on the trellis. Hand-pollinate for added success. Remove powdery mildew leaves.
Pests / Disease
Rats may eat the fruit. Slugs and snails can be an issue when the plants are still small.
How/ When to Harvest
- Bottle gourds can be harvested at many stages. While the skin is still soft and can be easily scratched they are best for eating.
- To get a continuous crop harvest regularly so the plant has more energy to keep producing. Near the end of summer when the plant slows down you can leave the gourds on the vine to dry and go brown for crafts and vessels.
Bottle Gourds grow easily from seed.
- Allow the gourd to mature on the plant (until it stops getting bigger and starts to get harder skin or go brown and dry). Cut the gourd open and scoop out the seeds. Separate from the flesh and allow to dry completely on a plate. Pop in a container or brown paper bag, label and date then store in a cool dark location until next spring.
Cooking and Using
Bottle Gourd can be used fresh, dried, or frozen. Bottle gourd is used in a similar way to Zucchini. Peel the outer skin off using a vegetable peeler. If the gourd has started to go hard on the outside you may need to use a knife to slice the outer skin. Remove the center pith and seeds.
Bottle gourd has very little flavour and makes a great vegetable to use as a filler or to carry flavours via dressings and marinades. Bottle gourd is a great way to thicken up smoothies.
Bottle Gourd pairs well with: Garlic, Ginger, Spinach, Tomato, Chilli, Banana, Apple, Lemon, Cheese, Nuts, Cream, Herbs
Bottle Gourd ideas:
Preserving the Harvest
Bottle Gourd can be frozen to use in soups, curries, or smoothies. Dehydrate strips using a vegetable peeler or zoodle maker can be dried and used as an alternative to pasta.