Production of the Yerba Mate Gourd

leather yerba mate gourd

Yerba Mate Gourd Plant Information

The calabash plant is a vine that produces ‘pods’ that are very useful because they can be dried and serve as a water container. There are many varieties that come in all shapes and sizes. Maybe the most famous is the gourd that is shaped like a bottle.

A similar tree is the Crescentia that produces very round fruit with the same water-carrying properties when dried.

The fruit of either plant when dried and used as a cup/bottle is known as a gourd. It is cultivated in many parts of the world.

yerba mate gourd growing yerba mate plant flower

Uses

Primarily the gourds are used as water containers. The calabash is believed to be one of the first cultivated plants for this reason, with evidence to suggest basic farming of the plant over 8000 years ago.  Other used include:

  • Drinking yerba mate
  • Use as kitchen utensils
  • Made into decorative items such wind chimes, lamps, bird houses, plant pots
  • Baby baths!
  • Hats
  • Intricate art
  • Musical Instruments
  • The young shoots can be used as food

Chinese shop

Man drinking yerba mateMother and a kid

man speaking on the microphoneyerba mate gourd growingpink tea infuser

yerba mate gourd growing

When dried the gourds are very hard and can have beautiful designs carved into their outers.

yerba mate gourd
yerba mate gourd growing

Growing/Harvest/Process

Both the vine and the tree are cultivated by farmers, both plants are very plentiful.

yerba mate plant growing

When harvested the fruit (gourds) need to be dried out, usually out in the sun.

mate gourds being dried

yerba mate gourd growing

The gourds then need to be hollowed out. The plain, dried gourds are then sold onto various ‘middle-men’ who turn the gourds into the end product. For example artesans buy the plain gourds to carve, paint, varnish etc and sell to their end customer

man working on a mate gourd
man decorating a calabash

Use of theGourd

The traditional cup to drink yerba mate across South America is the gourd. In its basic form, a plain gourd is used, but various finishing procedures are usual to give the ourd or ‘mate’ a better finish:

  • a metal rim ‘boquilla’ or ‘virola’ is added to give a smoother rim.
  • a metal base may be added so the gourd stands on a flat surface.
  • a metal stand ‘posamate’ made of wire is ideal for non-flat based rims.
  • the outside of the yerba mate gourd may be varnished or engraved.

See some of our house favourite natural gourds...