Beyond jack-o-lanterns: What to do with fall gourds

http://www.freeshipping.orgNovember 15, 2009 

Those jolly round veggies are ripe for the picking. But brainstorming what to do with them beyond October 31 can be tricky. Never underestimate the creative power of a gourd, especially while they're super cheap.

1. Make some music.

The gourd maraca has long been a staple in various indigenous African and South American tribal music. Not only are they cheap, but also easy to make and just plain funny looking. You have several options ranging from rain makers and harps to drums and guitars - the sky's the limit on your creativity and level of difficulty.

2. Toast the seeds.

Forget trying to segregate the pumpkin mush from the seeds. Lucinda Scala Quinn, executive editorial director of food for Martha Stewart Living, says to spread out the sloppy mess in a thin layer on the pan and bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees. The goop will easily separate from the seeds. Toss with olive oil and salt; or cinnamon, brown sugar, and salt for a delicious afternoon snack. Always season after baking the seeds.

3. Carve or paint for decoration.

Who says gourd and squash decor comes to a crashing halt after Halloween? The new thing is to cover your gourds in monochromatic colors for an inviting entry arrangement or spray paint with glitter glue and set on top of small cake stands.

4. Create a centerpiece.

Clean out the inside of a gourd and dry to make a fabulous vase for fall flowers - just make sure the base is stable. Modernists, don't count out gourds as an accent to your sleek design. These can be awesome centerpieces for non-traditional decor. A simple approach to gourd design is to gather colorful leaves outside, buy a few fall silk flowers, and adorn your gourds in a shallow dish extending down the table.

5. Just eat it.

If you've never savored tasty butternut squash soup, you're missing out. The texture and flavor is similar to that of sweet potatoes, but it doesn't fall apart as easily. Or go crazy and try out bitter gourd curry, a spicy vegetarian dish that goes well with rice.

6. Cut out for a soup bowl.

We've all tried the bread bowl, but how about a pumpkin bowl? With far fewer carbs and creative design, the pumpkin bowl will keep your guests chattering for weeks. Fill with pumpkin soup for a memorable first course.

7. Craft a candle holder.

Cut a round hole in the top of your gourd and clean it out. If it is a bit thin douse the inside with wood hardener for extra strength. You might need to sand the bottom of the gourd to for stability - test it with the votive inside before going further. Trace a pretty design on the outside and mark which sections you'll be cutting out. After cutting out the design with a mini jigsaw, paint the interior and exterior. Plop the candle back in and enjoy your repurposed glowing gourd. Check out this site for more information.

8. Paint it, pinata style.

Start your Cinco de Mayo celebrations early with a giant gourd or pumpkin. After cutting and carving your giant veggie, let it sit for a day to dry out. Poke a small hole in the bottom of your gourd and carve a small opening in the top for candy insertion - smaller than you would for pumpkin carving. Decorate the outside with rows of cut tissue paper or festive paint. Insert copious amounts of sugar (probably left over from trick-o-treating). Run a thick string through the bottom and attach it to a 2-inch fender washer (your pumpkin is best supported from the bottom). Have fun pumpkin bashing, but make sure you enjoy it within a week - it will turn to mush shortly thereafter.

(For more tips, check out FreeShippping.org's "Go Frugal" blog at http://www.freeshipping.org)

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