Caring for Your Calabash Mate Gourd

Yerba Mate Gourd in Hand

The calabash! Nothing else like it. It’s the most traditional way of drinking yerba mate. For thousands of years the ancient tribes of Paraguay, the Guaraní, have been using the hollowed and dried squash plant as a vessel for mate. It’s the original yerba mate gourd. Centuries later, we’re still using it. It’s simple, elegant, and fun to share within a Circle.

Below are a few tips to help you care for your mate gourd.

What if my gourd has mold and black stuff inside?

After curing your gourd (or not curing it), and over time with constant use, the inner lining of the calabash will darken—this is natural and nothing to worry about. However, if you don’t keep your gourd dry between use, it may form mold and get fuzzy—not good. If that happens, add boiling water (or very hot) to the gourd and let it sit for about 25 minutes. Dump the water and let the gourd completely dry—as dry as a bone!—for 2–3 full days.

Do I really need to remove the yerba from my gourd every night?

No, you don’t. Just don’t make a habit out of it. If your gourd has at least 2 full days to dry each week, you can get away with leaving some yerba in it overnight. Many Materos enjoy waking up to a gourd packed with yerba, as I do. Taking those semi-lavado (watery) sips in the morning to wake me up, before I prepare a fresh gourd, is priceless.

What size calabash gourd is the best?

The medium-size gourds are, overall, the best. Not too big. Not too small. Just right. Six to eight ounces is about the average holding capacity of a medium gourd. However, since it’s a natural product, there may be a variation of, plus or minus, several ounces. (You ever see those tiny-tiny gourds?) They are about 3 ounces. Fun to drink from when you’re alone, but not always the best in a Circle.

What sort of bombilla is best for the calabash gourd?

Spoon bombilla. Simple. The spoon naturally aligns to the curvature of the round calabash gourd, allowing maximum maneuverability and mate molding.

Does the calabash have a different taste than wooden gourd?

Yes it does, most of the time. There’s a distinct peaty and soil-like taste that influences the yerba from time to time. I believe it’s a product of the fermentation of the lingering plant matter that takes a while to be totally removed from the inside of the gourd. The taste isn’t a big issue; however, it becomes more apparent when the yerba sits in the gourd overnight and allowed to ferment with the calabash plant matter. This is precisely why it’s better not to leave yerba in your calabash. Keep it dry and fresh.