After enjoying your yerba mate, the following tips will help keep your gourd in great shape.
It is recommended that you discard the used yerba mate in order to allow the gourd to dry. Feel free to compost the yerba mate! Sometimes you may need to use the yerba mate straw, or a spoon, in order to get out the yerba mate from the gourd. Others will "bang" the gourd, though this risks breaking it.
Gourds do not usually need more than to be rinsed out with plain water. Just run some water in that gourd and get the leaves out.
Set your gourd aside to dry in a drying rack, windowsill, countertop, or other location. They can be set in the sun, or not. They can be set upside down, or not. Just keep in mind, that you may want to watch for any staining by placing the yerba mate gourd on a plate or towel.
If you live in a humid climate, it may help to put a paper towel or napkin in the gourd as part of the drying process. This will help absorb the moisture that may remain. This will become less important as the yerba mate gourd is used/dried more often. It will tighten up and become more resistent to absorbing water.
Wood may crack around the lip of the gourd if the wood gourd is not used regularly, especially in dry climates. Rubbing Olive Oil or Coconut Oil on your wood gourd can contribute to making a wood gourd last forever. If you think your wood gourd is looking very dry, then do not be afraid to treat it to some Olive Oil or Coconut Oil on both the inside and the outside of the gourd. They look beautiful when polished with the oil, as the wood grains become more visible.
Life is what happens while one is busy making other plans, and sometimes life has us forgetting to clean out the yerba mate gourd. When you leave highly nutritious food sitting in a damp environment, things happen! Should your gourd be left with wet Yerba Mate in it for a few days, then it may develop too much of the healthy mold that naturally occurs in the gourd. Often this happens during the curing process. Do not be alarmed, the gourd can be easily cleaned. The native yerba mate drinkers point out that the remains will discolor the gourd, but not make the gourd unusable. Indeed, studies suggest that some of the benefits of yerba mate (specifically the reparation of the heart muscle) may be imparted by the unique mold that the yerba mate and the gourd combine to create. Don't panic, as the courd can easily be returned to it's pre-abandoned state. Just follow the below yerba mate gourd cleaning instructions.
Simply discard the abandoned yerba mate, rinse it out with water, then pour boiling water in the gourd. It will froth, foam, and generally be a cool sight. When it is cooled down enough, you can rinse it out with more water, or repeat the adding of boiling water.
The boiling water mentioned above is the traditional fix for an abandoned yerba mate gourd. Still, if you have created a monster in your gourd, some odd scientific experiment, or some smell that seems too strong, then there is the technique of using lime juice, lemon juice, or alcohol to help the gourd start anew. Simply add water mixed with drinking alcohol, lime juice, or lemon juice into the yerba mate gourd. The preferred alcohol is rum, though one could use any alcohol that would leave a good flavor. The mix can be left in the gourd for a couple of days, or simply for 15 minutes. The length of time depends on your level of concern for what has gone on in your gourd! An alternative is to use apple cider vinigar, or even white distilled vinigar, though this is usually avoided because of the impact on flavor of the gourd. Still, it is an option if you like the taste of vinigar.
A few things you will NOT want to use:
In Latin America the gourd is described as having a memory. The gourd flavors the Yerba Mate with its previous experiences. Many drinkers consider the Gourd to have a "soul" that contributes to the Yerba Mate Ritual. People will collect different gourds, each adding its own contribution to the experience.
Although traditional gourds can be immediately used and cure naturally with use, it is recommended to cure your gourd before use. Curing will improve the taste and strengthen the gourd. Wood gourds need no curing (with the exception of palo santo wood gourds). Here are some simple curing instructions:
Your goal is to cure the gourd so that the water no longer penetrates the gourd. Any natural product that takes on water is going to take on character. Do not become concerned with bubbles or color distortions, they are a natural part of the curing process that will help to develop the character of your gourd.
This slow and gentle curing process will help strengthen the soft, light palo santo wood. Before beginning the curing process, it is highly recommended to apply generous amounts of a food safe oil, such as coconut or olive oil, to the inside and outside of the gourd. Wipe off excess oil and continue to apply every few days when you notice the gourd drying out. Continue this process for one to two weeks, then begin the curing process below:
Fill Palo Santo Wood gourd halfway with yerba mate. Add warm, NOT hot, water and fill to top. Leave overnight.
Keep the yerba mate in the Palo Santo Wood gourd while draining excess water out. Add hot, NOT boiling, water and fill to top. Leave overnight.
Keep the yerba mate in the Palo Santo Wood gourd and drain excess water again. Add boiling water and fill to top. Leave overnight.
Clean out Palo Santo Wood gourd and let dry.