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Making Food Safe Gourd Bowls
by Kathy James

Kasin, I noticed someone in your newsletter asking about making a gourd bowl food-safe. Here's a little info in which they might be interested.... Kathy James

One way to to make a gourd bowl safe for edibles in to oil it well with safflower oil.

First clean and sand the inside as well as possible. Soak the bowl repeatedly until the water that sits in it for an hour has no bitter taste to it. Sometimes this may take days, but often one day is enough. If your bowl is stubborn, try adding baking soda, salt, or coffee (no cream or sugar!) to the water.

Once all bitter taste has leached out, dry the bowl thoroughly- preferably outdoors in the fresh air. You may find that your bowl needs resanding. Often soaking raises loose fibers.

Dust well and give your bowl interior multiple coats of safflower oil, allowing it to dry thoroughly between coats. Safflower oil does not go rancid like many oils and dries to a waterproof finish. When you feel like the oil has penetrated throughout, give the outside a coat or two as well. Allow to dry thoroughly and buff.

If you use your bowl often, you may need to give it an occasional refresher coat. Your bowl should hold warm foods and cold foods, but not hot liquids- unless you don't mind a light film of oil floating to the top! Safflower oil won't hurt you if you consume it, and it has very little flavor, so it won't disturb your warm or cold foods. Dry foods, like candies or nuts, can be stored in your bowl indefinitely.

Think of your oil coating the same way you do the oil on a cast iron skillet. When you wash it after eating, don't soak it in soapy or dirty water. It will probably absorb some unpleasant flavors and raise loose fibers again. Simply wash it gently in warm running water and maybe a little soap, which you should rinse away completely. (Like with cast iron, scrubbing roughly will remove some of your valuable protective oil coating.) Dry and put away.

This is a nice way to protect functional woodburned bowls since they begin as a clean, dry surface. (Painted finishes may be negatively affected by the heavy applications of oil.)

Native peoples around the world used oiled gourds as food containers for years with little concern for the taste of rancid oil since they used them so often that the finish was constantly changing. They simply soaked them in a stream and left them in the sun to freshen up, or tossed them in the fire and cut a new one!

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