The short answer is yes, you can eat bottle gourds! But as you may know, these are the same items that, left on the vine to dry, will hollow out and can then be made into birdhouses! Here are some instructions by Birds and Bloom should you wish to make your own birdhouse out of a dried gourd.
For eating, young gourds picked far from maturity, are best. This is when the gourd can be peeled and then split open to reveal off-white flesh. Most people prefer to remove the spongy center along with all the seeds. What remains can be cut into chunks and cooked how you like it! The photo below shows a type of bottle gourd that I prefer for eating over the birdhouse-shaped type. This gourd is eaten all over the world and goes by many names. In markets near me, they're often labelled "long squash".
I love the sight of these bottle gourds hanging in the garden like lanterns on a warm summer evening. Read the excerpt below from The Chinese Kitchen Garden to learn why many Chinese people, a very superstitious people, love to keep bottle gourds around the house as decoration as well.
When my father does not need bottle gourds for food or products, he may grow another variety with an additional smaller bulb near the top. This double bulbed type is edible, but not desired for eating because of its awkward shape and small amount of usable flesh. However, these hourglass-shaped gourds are as symbolically auspicious as they are architecturally interesting, and they make for a beautiful decoration around the house. Called daji hulu in Mandarin, translated to “good luck gourd,” (hulu meaning bottle gourd), the name is also a synonym for a Chinese phrase that means happiness and prosperity. For decorative purposes, leave gourds to mature on the vine until the end of the season. If they are still not fully hardened, remove from the vine and store in a dry place. When fully dry, my father likes to sand these gourds to perfection. They can then be stained and even lacquered . We like to hang the gourds with a red string, a color that represents good fortune and joy. Miniature varieties sold as “miniature bottle gourds” or “baby bottle gourds” are perfect to grow and give as gifts, for adorning decorations like wreaths, or just strung here and there in the house as good luck charms.
I'm Wendy Kiang-Spray, gardener, home cook, and author of The Chinese Kitchen Garden. Learn more about the book here. Enjoy the blog and be sure to like The Chinese Kitchen Garden Facebook page for notifications when there are new posts.