Difference Between Gourds and Pumpkins

Fresh fruits and vegetables always seem to galvanize us and also bewilder us. One such vegetable confusion is the gourd and pumpkin perplexity. Although they belong to the same family- Cucurbitaceae and are often considered as brothers, they differ a lot fundamentally. 

Gourds vs Pumpkins  

The main difference between gourds and pumpkins is that gourds contemplate of several sub-categories including squashes, melons, etc., and is often considered as ornamental fruit whereas pumpkins usually are considered as ornamental as well as edible. Often pumpkins are also incorporated into gourds but they carry their own differences and are unique in themselves.   

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Gourds primarily carry many sub-categories with varying shapes and sizes ranging from bulky-bush-like, speckled swan gourds, bottle gourds, and so on. Gourds are generally decorative and ornamental while sometimes they are also used as musical instruments, tools, objects, articles, etc. Miniature pumpkins are also included in the gourd sub-category.  

Although pumpkins belong to the same family and genus of gourds they are structurally and constitutionally different from them. Pumpkins are usually yellow to orange in color and are grown during the winter season. They are typically hard-shelled, and contain pulp, and are mostly edible. Pumpkins usually carry a strong flavor.   

Comparison Table Between Gourds and Pumpkins   

Parameters of Comparison    Gourds    Pumpkins  
Origin    South Africa  North America  
Shell-Type  Mostly Hard Shell (Dried out)  Mostly Thick Shell (With seeds and pulp)  
Period of Discovery  13000 BCE  7000 to 5500 BCE    
Edible    Mostly not    Yes 
Nature of the Stem Weak and Fragile  Rigid and Stiff 
Shape    Varying- Long, Cylindrical, Curved, etc.  Mostly Round (Like Snowflakes)  

What are Gourds?  

As mentioned above gourds belong to the family and genus of Cucurbitaceae peculiarly Cucurbita and Lagenaria. Cucurbita originates from North America. The earliest gourd that was discovered was the bottle gourd which has its origin in Africa. Similarly, the Luffa gourd has its origin in Asia. Bottle gourds can be grown throughout the year especially planting seeds during summer and monsoon can provide the best results.  

The archaeological and DNA evidence shows that gourds were the first domesticated species in Asia. But now gourds are omnipresent, every culture uses gourds in one or the other form as they have enormous uses, some use them as musical instruments, some as drums, decorative articles, tools, while some use them as ornaments.   

Gourds are used in decoration by burning, carving, removing the skin and pulp, and also by using other methodologies. Gourds are majorly used as containers and vessels at home. Gourds are not edible, excluding some immature gourds which are eaten like other melons and squashes.   

Gourds typically constitute numerous medicinal and nutritional benefits, but unfortunately, as they are inedible these benefits may go in vain. So as a solution to this problem, scientists of India are trying to create a hybrid by crossbreeding several breeds of gourds so as to reduce their unappetizing taste and also enhance their nutritional benefit.   

Instruments made up of gourds are popular worldwide. They range from string instruments in Africa, nose flutes (wind instruments) of the Pacific. The Balafon (xylophone) from Africa has gourds hooked to each string for better resonance.  Nowadays, dried gourds are extensively used to make kitchen tools like cups, vessels, ladles, bottles, scoops and even birdhouses. Thus, every segment of gourd is useful in a technical and mechanical way and they make a good ornamental/ ornate fruit. 

What are Pumpkins? 

Pumpkins although included in the same family as gourds, are often considered as a sub-category of gourds, squashes, and fruits. Pumpkin literally translates to large melon or winter squash. Although the word pumpkin has no scientific meaning to it. Its stem is usually stiff and rigid.  

 It is generally grown in the winter season and is quite popular during the Halloween and Thanksgiving periods. Pumpkins are edible when ripe and can be baked, steamed, cooked, and are often used as filling in the Thanksgiving pie.   

Every part of the pumpkin is quite nutritious like the seeds of pumpkins contain fatty acids which are beneficial as they impart strength and metabolism. Pumpkins are also included in various diets as they are low in calories and help in weight loss. Pumpkins also bear enormous amounts of omega content that strengthen our immunity.  

Pumpkins are carved into alluring jack-o’-lanterns during Halloween. Pumpkin has its origin in Mexico and United States and is known to be the oldest domesticated crop/plant. Pumpkin derived its color from the carotenoid pigments thus providing vitamin A when consumed. China is the largest pumpkin producer to date, but pumpkins are majorly consumed in The United States.  

Various competitions and activities are carried out with pumpkin such as the Pumpkin Chunking, Art and Pumpkin Festival, World Champion Pumpkin Weigh-off. Almost every fragment of the pumpkin is useful in one or another way. The category and types of pumpkins are vast including jack-o’-lanterns, Big Max, Prizewinner Pumpkin, and so on.    

Main Differences Between Gourds and Pumpkins  

  1. Gourds have their roots in South Africa while pumpkins originated in North America.   
  2. Gourds are not edible whereas pumpkins are majorly edible.  
  3. Gourds are used in musical and wind instruments, on the other hand, pumpkins are used as jack-o’-lanterns on Halloween.   
  4. Gourds are grown throughout the year, in contrast, pumpkins are majorly grown in the winter season.   
  5. Gourds are ornamental and embellishing while pumpkins are majorly decorated during Halloween.   
  6. Pumpkins are considered to be older in discovery than gourds.  
  7. Gourds are popular worldwide, while pumpkins are majorly popular in the United States.  

Conclusion 

Although both gourds and pumpkins belong to the same family, they are intrinsically different. With the above-mentioned points, it is clear that they are similar yet different and often pumpkin can also be considered as a sub-species or sub-category of gourds barring the minor differences that they carry.   

The one major difference they carry is that gourd is not edible yet, but researchers are keen on improving their taste to procure their medicinal benefits, on the other hand, pumpkins are deliciously edible and are nutritious too. Both gourds and pumpkins bear tremendous remedial and curative benefits and can be explored colossally.  

References  

  1. https://pharmacologyonline.silae.it/files/newsletter/2009/vol1/028.Aman.pdf 
  2. https://www.taylorfrancis.com/chapters/edit/10.1201/9781482269871-12/pumpkins-squashes-gourds-desai-musmade 
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