I Finally Tied the Knot and Mastered Green Cleaning

By Cecile Garrison

I am thrilled with my first successful gourd manipulation this year! I have detailed my growing and manipulating successes in the gardening article in this issue on page 50. In this article I want to elaborate on my experience with green cleaning a gourd. I have had good luck and I have had bad luck with this procedure. Green cleaning means removing the outer skin from a gourd while it is still green. I love the smooth finish of a green cleaned gourd!

Most blemishes caused by insects or fungi are easily removed. The gourd dries much faster so watch out! Make that first scrape on the bottom of the gourd. If any moisture or "weeping" occurs, do not go any further. I read somewhere that one should wait forty-five days from harvest before green cleaning. Of course, you should not harvest the gourd until the stem is brown from the gourd to the ground!

I use a "paring" knife. You certainly do not want to use a serrated knife because it will scratch the inner skin. I experimented with a potato peeler-not a good idea either.

I got a copy of the Jim Story video where he demonstrated green cleaning. He makes it look easy. I recommend the video to anyone who plans to enter the Jim Story competition. Get your own copy by contacting the treasurer@indianagourdsociety.org-

I think experience is also a good teacher. I have discovered small dipper gourds do not tolerate the procedure as well as the thicker, long necked dippers. This year I tied a successful knot in a small dipper gourd. It was the perfect candidate for the Vegieform man mold. I babied it all summer. If it started to push the mold I loosened a bolt, then two bolts then all of the bolts holding the two sides together.

When the vine was crispy dry and brown I placed the gourd in a safe place in the garage. I waited about a week then cautiously scraped a small area on the bottom. I watched it overnight to ensure it would not weep. It did not so I proceeded to green clean the entire treasure. The neck started to shrink noticeably within six hours. Two cracks appeared on the neck within twenty-four hours. The plump little face became shrunken and pinched as the moisture inside was evaporating rapidly.

So, that beautiful, plump faced perfect mold became ineligible to enter the Jim Story Award after green cleaning allowed the gourd to dry at a rapid rate. Even though it was ineligible for the JSA Award it became a beautiful Wizard Sculpture.

Glenn Burkhalter wrote an article on Green Cleaning. His main points are as follows:

1. Because of some drying, the gourd should be lighter in weight than gourds of a similar size that still have green stems. This is an indication that the gourd has lost some of its interior fluid.

2. Once you have selected the "right" gourd, scrape a small spot and wait a couple of minutes to see if it bleeds (weeps). Bleeding is the oozing of moisture from the shell where the skin aa been scraped off. If it is bleeding, STOP! Set it aside for a few days and let it dry more. If the gourd does not bleed at first, continue to watch as you scrape as it may begin to bleed in other area. Same advice, STOP!  White scrape marks on the shell where you have scraped are other indication that the gourd is not ready for green cleaning.  This means that the gourd is not dry enough to clean, or in some cases the shell is so thin that it probably won't be worth the effort.

4. If the shell is showing a lot of greenish tinge where you've scraped, it might be a good idea to let it dry a couple more days before finishing. That's another indication that the gourd is not quite ready. A slight greenish tinge is OK.

5. If I first notice bleeding after I've cleaned a significant portion of  the gourd, I will place it loosely in a plastic bag for a few days.  This reduces the speed of evaporation and may prevent the cracking--or it may not.

6. Once you've completed the green cleaning, place the gourd in a shaded, airy location. There is still moisture in the gourd that will diffuse out through the shell, and fungi will still try to grow.  Good air circulation will help reduce that. Periodic wiping with a 50-50 mixture of bleach and water will help control the fungi.

7. Finally, if at first you don't succeed try, try again!  And, gourd luck! .