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Carve, Cook, and Look

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October 7, 2018
Today, we’re at Poor House Pumpkins near Starkville, considering one of the confusing conundrums of the fall season: what’s the difference between a pumpkin, a squash and a gourd? Common thoughts include the simple classification scheme of carve, cook, and look…pumpkins are carved, squash are cooked, while gourds are just pretty to look at. Scientifically speaking pumpkins, squash and gourds are very much intertwined. All are produced on vining dioecious plants having both male and female flowers. Bumblebees do the pollination, transferring pollen from the male flowers, and pollinating the female. Cucurbita pepo are the true pumpkins with bright orange skin and hard woody stems, perfect for using as a handle. Other members include zucchini, and summer squash. Cucurbita maxima have fruit that look like pumpkins and include the giant “pumpkins” grown for biggest pumpkin contests. Culinary varieties we enjoy are the winter squash: butternut and acorn squash. Moschata varieties have tannish colored outer skins. An interesting fun fact is these varieties are grown and processed for the delicious canned pumpkin. Finally, we come to the “look” part. Lagenaria gourds are large with smooth skins and include the popular “birdhouse” gourds. There are some Cucubita gourds and they are small funny-shaped fruit with bumpy and lumpy skins and almost unnatural bright colors. I’ve probably done nothing but confuse you, so maybe it’s just easier to to stick to the “carve, cook, and look” definitions. I’m horticulturist Gary Bachman and I’ll see you next time on Southern Gardening.

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