Here are just two of the gourds that we grew at the Cherokee Garden this summer. The first is the very familiar “Dipper” gourd and the second is “Basket” gourds. You will need a lot of space to grow gourds (the vines are similar to cantaloupe and watermelon and they go everywhere). Gourds are not edible but they have countless uses: masks, dippers, storage containers, drums, and creative artwork.
Before you can use them as utensils or decorative arts they first must be properly dried. The Cherokee would often allow them to stay on the vine in full sun until after the first hard frost. When gourds are green they are quite heavy, but after they dry, they are light weight and turn brown with a marbling effect on the outside. To dry them successfully the gourds need sunshine and a lot of air circulation.
Before we talk about some of the beautiful decorative gourds, lets talk about all the practical uses for the gourds. After they had dried completely, you can remove the top and your have a perfect container for storing grain and dried foods. You could even use them as buckets for water and dyeing vines and grasses for basketry.
The Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma is blessed to have a wonderful artist names Vera Bates. She uses gourds as her art medium. Below are some examples of her work:
At New Echota State Historical Site near Calhoun, Georgia, the museum has a gourd mask that resembles a bear. New Echota was the capital of the Cherokee Nation before the Forced Removal to Oklahoma in 1838. We are fortunate that this site has been preserved and it open to the public. Their bear mask is a good example of a ceremonial mask.
Sorry that we have been away from our blog for several months, this has been an unusually busy fall. Tony has had many speaking engagements, upgrades to The Cherokee Garden, and the National Trail of Tears Conference has taken up a lot of our extra time. Our next posting will tell you about how the Cherokee Garden is going high-tech.