Scientists think that gourds were either deliberately introduced from Asia and America, or they may have floated across the sea to Polynesia and have then grown from the seeds inside. Many gourds are cultivated as ornamentals or food crops, and some can be dried and used to make utensils, cups, bottles, scoops, ladles, fishnet floats, whistles, rattles, pipes, birdhouses, and other useful objects.
Most gourds are native to tropical or warm temperate climates. They require a long growing season to mature and are killed by frost. Well-drained fertile soil and a trellis, fence, or wall to provide support for the vines aid in the development of well-shaped unblemished fruits.
In Polynesia, gourds and taro were grown in shallow hollows to retain moisture. Polynesians built stone walls and rows for shelter and as boundaries around the gardens. They also used fences and shallow ditches. These methods were brought to New Zealand, where the Polynesian colonists quickly learned to adapt their planting regimes and techniques to the cooler climate.
The growing season was restricted to the warmer months, and they added coarse sand and gravel to soil – probably to improve drainage, increase the temperature, and extend the period of plant growth. This was particularly important from Marlborough South to the Banks Peninsula (the southern limit of kūmara growing).