Pumpkins are usually the star this time of year. We pick them at pumpkin patches, buy pumpkin desserts and think of clever ways to decorate them for our homes. Pumpkins reign supreme, but they aren’t the only fall food out there! Let’s take a look at a few different kinds of squashes and gourds that you can use for cooking or decorating this fall.
What’s the Difference Between a Squash and a Gourd?
Squashes and gourds are members of the Cucurbitaceae family. This is a massive plant group containing over 800 species of plants such as gourds, melons, squashes and pumpkins, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. Really, the main distinction between squashes and gourds is that squashes are grown and harvested to eat, while gourds tend to be cultivated for decoration purposes.
The squashes and gourds we’ll be talking about here are often referred to as winter squash. Don’t let the name fool you; they aren’t grown in the winter. These plants are harvested in late summer and early fall. They’re called winter squash because, unlike their summer counterparts, they have a hard, thick rind that doesn’t bruise easily and keeps longer, even into the winter.
Winter squashes also have more nutrients like vitamins A, C and B6, as well as potassium and antioxidants.
Now that you have a better understanding of squashes and gourds, let’s take a look at some common ones you can find at your local farmers market, and a few ideas on how you can use them.
Autumn Wing Gourd
These little guys are some of my favorites! They come in such unique shapes, like spoons with little wings or horns. Each one looks different, and they make wonderful decorations.
Autumn wing gourds aren’t really intended for eating, but their traditional fall colors really spruce up a table or a mantle. They’re fairly small as well, usually about 2 to 3 inches long.
These gourds have character on their own, but if you’re not a fan of traditional fall colors, or if you just want to jazz them up a bit more, try painting them like this one below.
Also not intended for consumption, warted gourds are a fall decorating staple. Their unique sizes, shapes and colors make them perfect for a fun fall display!
They get their name from their appearance, since it looks like there are little warts all over them. (Don’t worry, they’re not real warts.)
If you buy smaller warted gourds, my favorite way to use them is to drill a small hole in the center just large enough for a tea light or a candle stick. If you like the larger ones, you can set them out as-is, almost like a pumpkin.
Butternut squash is similar to a pumpkin. In Australia and New Zealand, they’re actually referred to as butternut pumpkin. It even tastes similar to pumpkin!
The outside is a pale tone, but the inside is a vibrant orange, adding color to any fall plate. They’re versatile, too. They can be roasted, toasted, pureed or mashed. Looking for a butternut squash recipe to try this fall? Try brown butter butternut squash soup from The Kitchy Kitchen.
Don’t forget, butternut squashes are versatile. They can be used for decoration, too! This project from Better Homes and Gardens is a fantastic example. Cut off the top of your squash and hollow it out. Toss in some fresh-cut fall blossoms, and you’ve got yourself a unique and rather stunning vase!
Sweet Dumpling Squash
These squashes are little, but they pack a big flavor punch! As you probably guessed from their name, these are a small, sweet squash. What you might not have guessed was how pretty they look on a plate!
Want to wow guests at your next dinner party? Try mixing up a batch of stuffed sweet dumpling squash with this recipe from Family Fresh Cooking. The bacon and smoky cheese in it will balance the sweetness for a perfect pairing.
Spaghetti squashes are on the larger side; if you’re cooking for one, you’ll probably have leftovers. They’re called spaghetti squash because the meat falls out in strands, like spaghetti, when you scrape it with a fork. You can use this squash as an alternative to pasta. They are a little sweet, so I like to mix them with something savory, like this spaghetti squash and sausage dish from White On Rice Couple.
Last on this list is acorn squash. It’s a fitting name since it looks kind of like a big, green acorn. This is a medium-size squash, usually between 4 and 7 inches long. There are numerous ways to use this mild squash, but if you have a sweet tooth, you’ll devour these streuseled acorn squash muffins from Spoon Fork Bacon.
So this project isn’t really meant for decorating the squash but for using it to create something beautiful! According to Martha Stewart, if you cut off the top and scrape out the meat, you can use the squash as a candle mold to make festive fall candles. How cute is that? And it would make a great hostess gift for any fall dinner party.
These are just a few of the gourd and squash options out there. There are a few hundred more varieties! Do you have a favorite gourd or squash that wasn’t listed? Let us know in the comment section!
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