Friday, 31 August 2012

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SQUASH, PUMPKIN AND A GOURD?




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The differences between pumpkins, squashes and gourds can be confusing and it is sometimes difficult to tell them apart. Their names are often used interchangeably. So what are the differences between them? 

Squashes, pumpkins and gourds belong to the Cucurbitaceae family.  These species include Cucurbita maxima, Cucurbita cucurbita, Cucurbita laganeria, Cucurbita mixta, Cucurbita pepo and Cucurbita moschata.

The Cucurbitaceae family includes vegetables such as cucumber, melon, and watermelon. Plants bear palmately lobed, alternate, and simple leaves and have spiraling tendrils.  They have yellow flowers and their fruits are specialized berries called pepos, which can grow very large. 

Hubbard squash, buttercup squash and some prize pumpkins belong to the C.maxima species. The cushaw squash belongs to C.mixta, whilst the butternut squash belongs to C.moschata.  Most pumpkins, acorn squash, summer squash and courgette (zucchini) belong to the C.pepo species.

All pumpkins are squashes, but not all squashes are pumpkins. Gourds are from the same family as squashes.

Squashes
Within squash it is useful to differentiate between summer and winter types. The summer types are fast maturing, have soft rinds, are consumed when the fruit is immature, and are quite perishable. They include yellow squash, Courgette and scallop squash. On the other hand, the winter squash take longer to mature, one hundred days versus fifty days, have a long storage life, several months versus two weeks, are consumed when the fruits and seeds are fully mature, and have durable rinds

Pumpkins
A pumpkin is a squash that belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family.  Native to North America, it commonly refers to any one of the species Cucurbita maxima, Cucurbita pepo and Cucurbita moschata.
Pumpkin stems are generally more prickly, angular and rigid that the softer and more rounded stems of squashes. Pumpkins typically have a thick, orange or yellow shell, although some fruits may be green, grey, orange- yellow, white or red.
Pumpkins generally weigh 4-8 kg (9-18 lbs), but the largest species Cucurbitia maxima can reach huge proportions of over 34 kg (75 llbs). They vary in shape from oblong to oblate. They are smooth and lightly ribbed, creased from stem to the bottom. 
The C.pepo species is usually recognized as the true pumpkin. Varieties within this group are often used for jack o lanteen halloween celebrations as they have bright orange skin and hard, woody, distinctly furrowed stems.

Guords
A gourd is a plant of the family Cucurbitaceae. Gourd is occasionally used to describe crops like cucumbers, squash, luffas, and melons. The term gourd, however, can more specifically refer to the plants of the two Cucurbitaceae genera Lagenaria and Cucurbita or also to their hollow, dried-out shell. Normally they are inedible due to a lack of flesh and/or bad taste, although some varieties such as the snake gourd can be eaten.
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