Are Gourds Edible? How They Are Different From Squash

Oluwatosin Michael
Oct 17, 2023 By Oluwatosin Michael
Originally Published on Oct 23, 2021
Colorful varieties of pumpkins and squashes on rustic wooden background.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 5.0 Min

A gourd is a fruit that belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family, in which the term Cucurbita stands for gourd.

Pumpkins are a kind of orange squash that is mainly cultivated to eat during specific seasons. On the other hand, gourds are usually harvested for ornamental and decorative purposes, and they are inedible in nature.

The word 'gourd' is the cumulative name of the Cucurbitaceae family, which includes more than 700 members. The most popular varieties of vegetables in the group are cucumbers, squashes, pumpkins, and zucchinis.

Gourds are broadly divided into two categories: edible and inedible (or decorative) gourds. Both of these varieties are harvested in an area that receives direct sunlight and is most likely grown during the winter months.

These seeds require well-drained soil that can be loosened up to 2 in (5.1 cm) deep with sufficient spaces available between the plants.

At times, they are initially grown indoors, but are then transferred after four to six weeks. These seeds are generally planted in groups with about four seeds in a group.

If you like reading this, check out these other articles that will answer questions like, are bay leaves edible and are beans a vegetable?

Are all kinds of gourds edible?

Considering the fact that gourds are mostly harvested for decorating, there are a few varieties that can be cooked and eaten. These gourds have varying tastes and can make a delicious meal as well. A few of them have bitter skin, which are typically peeled before consumption. Others have a sweeter taste.

There are different types of edible gourds. Take, for example, the luffa gourd, which is alternatively known as the Chinese okra.

This gourd is extensively grown in several parts of Asia. It is long, dark green in color, and the exterior has hard rinds all over the surface. This fruit can grow up to 6 in (15.2 cm).

Comparatively, the cucuzza is a smoother gourd with a similar greenish hue. It is thinner, longer, and occasionally termed as an Italian gourd. It possesses a slightly bitter taste.

Another kind would be a calabash or a bottled gourd. They have different names due to their unique appearance.

This variety has a distinctive white flower, so it's called the white-flowered gourd or a long melon. Occasionally, they may be referred to as suzza melons or opo squashes.

They have a similar structure to a cucuzza, but are slightly thicker and shorter in size with tender flesh. Apart from these edible plants, ornamental and garden gourds are not approved for consumption due to the presence of toxins. These, when consumed, might cause irritation and are mostly bitter in taste.

What are the types of gourds?

There is a large number of vegetables that belong to the Cucurbitaceae family. Its members are of all different shapes and sizes, and are used differently. A few of them can be delightfully delicious, while the others are inedible props used for festivals that typically occur in the fall season.

The bottle gourd is alternatively known as Lagenaria siceria. It has a very hard body and is mostly used for making musical instruments.

At times, the vegetable can also be made into a vessel for water. The speckled swan is a gourd that looks like a swan; its upper part is long and curvaceous, green in color, and can be used for projects in painting.

Dipper gourds vaguely resemble the speckled swan, but do not have the same exact appearance. They are mostly used to make ladles. The powderhorn, also known as the penguin gourd, has a slimly-shaped structure.

Most ornamental gourds are purposed as fall-season decorations with a colorful look. These are soft, unlike other types, but are visually attractive and are kept as home décor, either curved into a half or hanging from the door.

This fruit is mostly grown in the fall and typically kept in stock at grocery stores. It's a well-recognized sign of the upcoming winter and adds a special flavor to seasonal festivals.

Can you eat decorative gourds?

Although some gourds or squashes are tasty and come in handy while cooking, there are a few which should not be consumed. They might cause a temporary itchy sensation and an unpleasant bitter taste that might last for some time, as they can be somewhat poisonous.

Decorative gourds are only meant for decoration and should not be considered for consumption. Any carved pumpkin that has been kept at room temperature for more than two hours becomes potentially hazardous to eat. Bacteria multiply at a rapid rate, doubling every few minutes in those favorable conditions.

This exponential growth of bacteria makes any decorative gourd extremely dangerous to eat. Not to mention the dust, dirt, and potential creepy crawlies that might make a carved pumpkin their new home.

These particular pumpkins contain less flesh than those that are sold for eating. Decorative pumpkins are stringy, coarse, and hollower. Those characteristics are ideal for carving, not eating.

The Difference Between Gourds And Squash

Although the squash and the gourd come from the same family, their difference lies in their purpose. Gourds are used for decorative purposes, but squashes (like a pumpkin or butternut squash) are a bit different. They are edible vegetables and are meant to be eaten.

Different kinds of squash like the butternut squash or pumpkin are harvested mainly for eating, while gourds are cultivated for decorative occasions like Halloween. They have different shapes and sizes which makes it easy to differentiate one from the other.

Both members of the Cucurbitaceae family, squashes remain edible in contrast to gourds, which are inedible. The former is generally found in the summer months while the latter is harvested in the winter months.

During the summer months, squash is used to make soup, and it is steamed to soften the hard interiors. Squash has a sweet taste and is mostly eaten, while various types of gourds are used for decorations.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for are gourds edible, then why not take a look at are black walnuts edible, or are black-eyed peas beans?

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Written by Oluwatosin Michael

Bachelor of Science specializing in Microbiology

Oluwatosin Michael picture

Oluwatosin MichaelBachelor of Science specializing in Microbiology

With a Bachelor's in Microbiology from the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Oluwatosin has honed his skills as an SEO content writer, editor, and growth manager. He has written articles, conducted extensive research, and optimized content for search engines. His expertise extends to leading link-building efforts and revising onboarding strategies. 

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