Gourds are a type of dried fruit from the Curcurbitaceae family of plants. Native to Africa, gourds come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors and they are commonly used as fall decorations. Gourds have a long history of use and are often used to make bowls or other containers. Small, ornamental gourds are well known for their colors and are frequently used to decorate a table or porch. They are also commonly used as musical instruments because of their hollow center. In Latin American, gourds are often used to make maracas, a type of musical instrument that emits a rattling sound when shaken.
Hard shell gourds are more commonly used outside of cuisine because of their tough external shell. Hard shell gourds are usually smaller and more colorful than soft shell gourds. Soft shell gourds, such as pumpkins or squash, have more culinary uses because their softer exterior makes them easier to prepare.
Pumpkins are the most well known type of gourd and are a fall decorating must-have. Pumpkins have a variety of uses from decoration to food. Pumpkin pie and pumpkin seeds are popular Thanksgiving Day treats along with a variety of other pumpkin –based foods. Pumpkins are often carved during Halloween to make jack-o-lanterns and are characterized by their thick orange shell which surrounds the soft, seedy inside. Pumpkins can be very large or very small and they range in shape from round to oblong. Squash is another popular type of gourd that is commonly used in cuisine. Squash can be baked, grilled, sautéed, and even steamed and is a great side to any meal. Popular squash varieties include Butternut, Acorn, and Spaghetti Squash.