“I am ignorant of almost everything” is a favorite saying of mine, and truth be told it is an obvious truth for us all. It is what makes us so lucky to be plant lovers, since we are reminded with the new personal and universal discoveries of Nature every single day. Know-it-alls need not apply for attendance at Nature’s banquets – though they might learn the most. One of my recent revelations of a horticultural bent was about – gourds. I have seen them, and have a vague sense that they are cucurbits, that is that they are in the Cucurbitaceae, the family that also includes the luscious cantaloupes we are all now enjoying, watermelons and many other melons, pumpkins, edible squashes of infinite variety, and (burp), excuse me, cucumbers.
Then the other day I got an e-mail from my friend Chris Voise asking for volunteers to help with the 54th Ohio Gourd Show. Again, I knew that gourds, usual and unusual, are staples of county fairs, but a whole show of gourds – wow. It is coming October 7-9 at the Delaware County Fairgrounds. According to the website: “Food, gourds, gourd art, art and craft supplies, music and special programs are featured. Programs and presentations throughout the weekend will present information about gourds, gourd art and gourd music.”
For five bucks – seven for the entire weekend! So, I am intrigued. And to prove that this note from Chris Voise was meant to be, the very next week I was walking down the sidewalk in Smithville Ohio and looking up at a vine, it was vaguely cucumber-like, twirling up a telephone pole. There about 20 feet up or so, was a gourd! Not an expert – but possible some type of bottle or Kalabash gourd?
Note: Most of the plants we call gourds are from the genera Cucurbita and Lagenaria, with Lagenaria siceraria being the bottle gourd. Gourds are commonly found in archaeological sites and were clearly used for thousands of years as containers for water and as musical instruments; from drums, to nose flutes to – maracas. They have been used in agriculture for purple martin houses to encourage these insect-eating birds, an d of course their genetics and that of their relatives are used directly in food crops for animals and humans. They are obviously widely used in art and in crafts, but I am way out of my element here, certainly in depth and breadth – I must learn more about the myriad types and uses - at the Gourd Show.