Pack up your swimsuits and break out the cozy sweaters, it’s squash season! Or, is it gourd season? Keep reading to finally find out the difference between gourds and squashes, plus learn how to use them in your autumn decorations and cooking.
Gourds and Squashes
The main difference between gourds and squashes is that squashes are grown and harvested to be eaten, and gourds are generally used for decoration. In the squash and gourd family, there are two main varieties; winter and summer. Summer squashes have softer, edible rinds and include types like zucchini and yellow squash. Winter squash — harvested in summer and early fall — have thick hard rinds that allow them to last all the way into early winter months.
Types of Squashes
There are many varieties of squashes, but our favorites for cooking are acorn, butternut, and kabocha.
• Acorn squash is generally round, has a dark green rind with yellow or orange splotches and sweet yellowish-orange flesh. It can be used in savory dishes with it’s seeds scooped out and replaced with rice or veggies or in delicious squash soups.
• Butternut squash is shaped somewhat like a very large, very long pear. It comes in a variety of colors, ranging from off-white to dark orange (the most popular variety). Butternut squash seeds can be enjoyed raw, roasted, or even pressed into oil that you can use in salad dressing or on popcorn!
• Kabocha squash — also known as a Japanese pumpkin — is shaped like a small, traditional pumpkin with a hard green, knobbed exterior. It’s sweeter than butternut squash with a flavor that’s often described as a mix between a sweet potato and a pumpkin.
Types of Gourds
While some gourds are technically edible, they are mostly grown for autumn decorations like gourd centerpieces and accents. Since you’re choosing your gourds mainly based on looks and not taste, the sky’s the limit on which type you choose! Our favorites are the warted gourds, named for their many bumps and protrusions, and the autumn wing, a gourd with a long curved "arm" on the top. You can even carve them like traditional pumpkins or drill holes and place a candle in them for some extra seasonal flair. Visit your local pumpkin patch to pick out which decorative gourds are right for you and your autumn decorations.
Nutrition & Storage
Rich in nutrients and low in calories, most squashes are also high in fiber making them a delicious choice for any healthy, balanced diet. The best way to store any of your winter squashes is at 50°F in a dark space like a drawer in your kitchen or pantry. Depending on the variety, they can last up to 2 to 4 months, but be sure to check them often for soft spots and other signs of decay.
Roasted, Toasted Recipes
Check out some of our favorite squash recipes — both sweet and savory!