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Posted by on Jan 18, 2016 in Tell Me Why |

What Is a Gourd?

What Is a Gourd?

Did you ever see a fruit with rind hard enough to use as a cooking pot? A gourd is such a fruit. Gourds are ornamental fruits that are closely related to squashes and pumpkins. Like their more familiar relatives, gourds grow on vines with long, trailing stems.

The leaves may be a foot across. Gourds grow in sunny parts of the world, in many-shapes and sizes, and are known by such names as “dippers” and “bottles.” Primitive people cleaned and dried the tough rinds and used them for cups, bottles, and other utensils. Now gourds are used mainly as decoration.

Gourd is occasionally used to describe crop plants in the family Cucurbitaceae, like pumpkins, cucumbers, squash, luffa, and melons. More specifically, gourd refers to the fruits of plants in the two Cucurbitaceae genera Lagenaria and Cucurbita, or also to their hollow, dried-out shell. A gourd can also have a hard shell when dehydrated.

There are many different gourds worldwide. The main plants referred to as gourds include several species from the Cucurbita genus (mostly native to North America, including the Malabar gourd and turban squash), Crescentia cujete (the tree gourd or calabash tree, native to the American tropics) and Lagenaria siceraria (bottle gourd).

Other plants with gourd in their name include the uffa gourd (likely domesticated in Asia), which includes several species from the Luffa genus, as well as the wax gourd, snake gourd, teasle gourd, hedgehog gourd, buffalo gourd/coyote gourd. The bitter melon/balsam apple/balsam pear is also sometimes referred to as a gourd.

Content for this question contributed by Lynda Rabideau, resident of Marinette, Marinette County, Wisconsin, USA