One you eat, the other you use to decorate your house. Could they possibly be the same thing?
The Short Answer
Yes, squash and gourds come from the same plant family and genus.
The Long Answer
Have you ever tried to eat a gourd? Don’t. It won’t be a happy experience for anyone. Their hard shells are not designed to be cracked into. And once inside, you’re not going to find a whole lot of fleshy meat and seeds.
Squash, on the other hand, is wonderfully perfect for roasting, dicing, pureeing, souping, you name it. It’s a very versatile food.
On paper the two are nothing alike, right?
In reality, they are very closely related. Both belong to the Cucurbitaceae plant family. What’s more, they are also a part of the same genus, that being Cucurbita.
Cucurbita is actually the Latin word meaning gourd. This genus includes all squash, all pumpkins, and most gourds. Bottle-gourds belong to the genus Lagenaria.
So, let’s look at some of the differences between the various forms of Cucurbita.
Squash comes in many different varieties. There’s butternut, acorn, spaghetti, and Hubbard, plus so many more. It’s an incredibly diverse plant with a number of kitchen applications. They can be easily cracked into with a strong knife and, once the seeds have been removed, you’re ready to create some truly memorable recipes.
Gourds, on the other hand, have many differing qualities. The most common variant you’ve likely seen are dipping gourds. These are typically used for autumn centerpieces and can be found on thousands of Pinterest boards all over the internet. Gourds are a mainstay of external fall décor and internal table settings like cornucopias. As gourds age, they take on another use. Their hard shells are slow to rot, so once their insides have decomposed a bit, you can turn them into rattles.
We can’t forget pumpkins. They are the best of both worlds. A pumpkin can be used for a variety of amazing dishes, or it can become a decorative piece to bring out the spirit of the fall season. Pumpkin pies and Jack-o-Lanterns are mainstays of autumn.
So, while squash and gourds are not used for the same purposes, they’re still part of the exact same family and genus. Think of them like first cousins who are wildly different. You have gourds, the attractive sensible creative member of the family, and squash, who are more practical.
Then there are pumpkins, which do it all. But no one likes a show-off!