Gourds and Squash

dose up of a white and yellow pumpkin

The fall harvest brings a bounty of colorful gourds and squash. All are members of the large Cucurbitaceae family, which has hundreds of species, including some that may surprise you, such as watermelons, cucumbers, and melons.

Gourds and squash are part of a diverse group of plants that throughout history has been a very important source worldwide for food and utilitarian objects. Gourds are usually ornamental and prized for their unusual and decorative appearance.

Squash, on the other hand, are prized for eating and are divided into two groups. The first is tender or summer squash, which include zucchini, patty pan, crookneck and other tender types picked and eaten when young.

The other type, winter squash, in contrast, is allowed to fully mature and develop a tough rind that helps it store for months. It includes the acorn, butternut, spaghetti, calabaza, hubbard, and delicata squashes.

The most famous type of winter squash is the pumpkin, though that name is not botanically defined. In the United States, “pumpkin” refers to any squash that is round, smooth, and slightly ribbed with deep yellow or orange color.  Native to North America, these squash are a symbol for fall.

–Aaron Steil, Manager of Public Programs – photo caption: Cucurbita Pepo ‘Sweet Lightning’