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What do pumpkins, squash and gourds have in common?
Gardening & Agriculture Gardening & Agriculture Crop presevation

Already popular for thousand of years 

Pumpkins, squash and gourds are all members of the cucurbitaceae family. They are made up of an extremely diverse group consisting of more than 100 genera and 700 species. History has told us that they have been a source for food and utilitarian objects of all kinds for thousands of years at archaeological digging sights and such.

Hard-shelled squash and gourds, from as far back as what is deemed prehistoric, typically were grown to be utilized as a vessel to hold water or even dry products, such as grains or powders, by removing a section of the neck and hollowing it out by removing the seeds and drying it. Some hard squash varieties also contained a valuable source for food with its thick flesh under the hard skin and still do to this day. It is unknown exactly where the origins of the species started but it is thought that it occurred in the Western Hemisphere, probably in Central and South America and Mexico.

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Pumpkins or Squash?

In the United States, if a squash is round and orange and utilized for pies, fall decorating, or a jack-o-lantern, it is probably called a pumpkin, which has no botanical meaning because they are actually all squash. There are two varieties of squash: summer squash and hard-skinned or winter squash. (I bet you didn’t know that zucchini are a form of summer squash did you?) Others are straightneck and crookneck as well as other varieties. Winter squash typically have a harder skin and can be stored for longer periods if kept cool and dry. They include acorn, Hubbard, spaghetti, banana, butternut, cushaw, and others.

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Gourds for storing liquid

Hard-shell gourds are green while growing but eventually turn tan when left to dry and cure. These are the ones that have been utilized as vessels for liquids as well as dry materials. In our recent culture, they can be seen to provide birdhouses for various species of birds. Then there are the small decorative gourds, some with green and yellow interesting patterns.

Halloween & Pumpkin time!

Yes, it is almost time for Halloween and that means it is pumpkin time; they are everywhere. If you haven’t seen any then you must be living under a rock because supermarkets, orchard outlets and roadside stands display them prominently at their businesses. Some displays are enormous. There seems to be nothing more satisfying this time of year than seeing huge displays of these orange marvels that range in size from tiny miniatures to giant behemoths and they run the gambit when it comes to shapes. Some are grown specifically for local contests, growing to 400 to 500 pounds and more; babied and even milk-fed through the stem to reach these monstrous sizes.

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Kercher’s Sunrise Orchard and Farm Market is one of our most notable local growers that burst with pumpkins of all sizes this time of year. The market's staff even provides wagon rides to the fields, family activities and apple-picking opportunities. If you’re not into wagon riding, they have a huge selection on sight at the store for you to choose from.

Baked acorn squash has always been a favorite of mine, especially when it’s stuffed with wild rice and sausage. Baking instructions can be found at Just look for autumn stuffed acorn squash.

Tom Yoder is a Master Gardener who resides in Goshen.