Fun in the Garden with Snake Gourds

Gardeners are a curious lot. Temperaments range from casual to intense, amateur to professional, but almost without exception, gardeners like to share. Failures can be more informative than successes, as the “learning” component tends to stick with us longer.

Sometimes, however, gardeners just need to have fun! Grow plants or crops or flowers for the sheer fun of it. For the unusual or exotic (please not the invasive). For the neighbors to ask “what is that”, or your children’s friends to comment “wow, that’s cool” or “gnarly” or whatever!

Such a plant is the Snake gourd, one of many species of gourds used for food or ornamentation, occasionally both.

Snake gourds at Grandmother's Garden (Sloss Furnaces).

Snake gourds at Grandmother’s Garden (Sloss Furnaces).

These gourds are a staple of Asian cuisines, and while commonly not seen in North American gardens as it needs a long, warm growing season, it can do splendidly in north central Alabama.

Be aware there are two varieties of snake gourds in the U.S.; one is a hard-shelled version such as those crafted into bird houses. The other is an edible, waxy-skinned type (Trichosanthes anguina or T. cucumerina) that tastes much like a cucumber if harvested when young and tender. Allowed to grow into the fantastic forms pictured here, the flesh becomes bitter, much like a cucumber left on the vine too long.

Recipes for the fruit, which is used much like a zucchini, include stuffed, baked, pickled and stir fried.

The suggestion is if you can grow lima beans in your area, you can grow snake gourds, but be sure to provide a sturdy structure, such as a trellis, chain link fence, or rebar creation from the imagination of children. Harvest for eating when 16-18” long, or allow the gourds to “grow out” for the sheer fun of it!

Painted snake gourd art from Amazon.com.

Painted snake gourd art from Amazon.com.

By Sallie Lee, Urban Regional Extension Agent, Alabama Cooperative Extension System.  Contact Sallie at leesall@aces.edu.


The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) operates as the primary outreach organization for the land-grant functions of Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities. ACES is committed to affirmative action, equal opportunity and the diversity of its workforce.  Educational programs of ACES serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or national origin.

Alabama Extension

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System operates as the primary outreach organization for the land-grant functions of Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities and answers home-gardeners' questions each week on Birmingham Gardening Today.

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