What’s the Difference Between Gourds, Squash and Pumpkins?

Nothing says fall like the Cucurbitaceae family! No, they’re not actually a family that only comes out in the fall. The cucurbitaceae family is the latin term for gourds, squash and pumpkins, which most of us lump into one big category of bumpy, vine-y, hard to hack into, often ugly things that grow in the autumn. What’s the diff between gourds, squash and pumpkins? Read on. You’ll wow ‘em at your next dinner party.


This ornamental squash comes in different shapes, sizes and colors. You’ve got your hardshell, bottle, turban and dipping (the most common) type. Gourds aren’t much for eating. They’re decorative and can be dried into containers or Instagram-worthy centerpieces, but don’t waste your time trying to crack into their hard shells for fleshy meat or seeds. They’re not designed for that. Still, they make you feel festive, so consider enjoying them outside the kitchen.


You’ve got your hubbard, butternut, acorn, delicata and spaghetti squash, to name just a few. Squash are perfect for roasting, souping, dicing, pureeing and all-around eating. The trick is to crack into the thick skin and dense flesh with a sharp knife and a strong arm. Scoop out the seeds and you’re ready to follow your favorite squash recipe. A pound of winter squash yields about 2 cups of flesh. If you can’t be bothered with an arm workout in the kitchen, it may be smart to buy the pre-cubed butternut squash sold at the market. (We won’t tell anyone!)  Winter squash is really mild in flavor and full of fiber, vitamins and minerals. It’s also super satisfying and low in calories. Try sautéing some for brunch, instead of potatoes. YUM.


The all-occasion cucuritaceae, pumpkins are both ornamental and edible. Treat the super mini’s like gourds, and don’t waste your time trying to extract nutrition from them. They’re eye candy. The medium pumpkins are fantastic for making pumpkin bowl soup, which is as pretty as it is delicious. Use the large ones for jack-o-lanterns around Halloween or roast them to add to your recipes all  year long.

RELATED: Pumpkin Flaxseed Pancakes with Pomegranate Maple Syrup

Cucurbitaceae is to fall as snow is to winter. Celebrate the season with squash, gourds and pumpkins on your table and plate. Happy fall!

Image: Tim Mossholder via Unsplash

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