Getting Ready For Gourd Harvest! - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

St. Francis -- Heather Flanigan Reports

Getting Ready For Gourd Harvest!

January 26, 2005 – Posted at 4:20 p.m. CST

ST. FRANCIS -- You don't usually think of January as being harvest time, but for some farmers in Region 8, the timing couldn't be better.

“We grow over 30 different shapes and sizes. We have some that look apples and bananas and eggs, so there's just a never ending source of inspiration,” said gourd farmer Ellen Dalton.

Dalton and her husband have been growing gourds for the last 15 years on their farm in Clay County.

“We go to six big gourd shows in the spring, we even belong to the American Gourd Society, believe it or not,” laughed Dalton.

Gourds can start out weighing as much as 100 pounds, but over time they will cure down to just a few pounds, and that's when the fun starts on the farm. The Daltons use migrant workers to help them harvest the tens of thousands of gourds grown.

“People call them nature's Tupperware. We have every type of gourd here, teeny, tiny gourds all the way up to huge, huge gourds that are more than 25 inches in diameter,” said Dalton.

Gourds have been used for centuries to store food in, even the settlers used them to store seed when they came to America, but today, they are primarily used for arts and crafts. Dalton sells her gourds over the Internet and ships to all 50 states, even overseas.

“I have customers who are selling pieces in the thousands of dollars range even,” said Dalton, “They don't look like much out here, but they turn from ugly ducklings into wonderful swans when people have a chance to fix them up.”

And it takes the Dalton's nearly a year to farm their 20 acres of gourds.

“These gourds are a long time getting ready to do something with. We start planting in the greenhouse in the first of April, and we are just now harvesting here in January. A lot of these gourds won't be dry enough to ship until March, April,” said Dalton, “It's almost a year long process.”

One that's worth the wait!

Many people may have a gourd at home and not even know it. Luffas, like the kind you use in the bath, are another type of popular gourd.

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