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Are You Out of Your Gourd?
Around this time of year, gourds start popping up all over the place. They practically scream, “Fall’s here; time to put on a sweater and eat an apple.” And, you gotta admit, gourds have panache. They’re loud, irregular, and unapologetic. But this blog is about food and nutrition, so the big question is, “Can you eat them?
Well, traditionally, gourds have been grown for their shells and fiber, not for fodder. Throughout history, gourds have served as instruments, dishes, bottles, containers, and works of art. But there are a few varieties meant for consumption versus function. When I searched for gourd recipes I found many dishes calling for gourds, but not quite the bright, horned, bumpy kinds that adorn Thanksgiving displays.
I dug up recipes that included wax gourds (also called white gourds), bitter melon (bitter gourd), and calabash (bottle gourd) - all members of the gourd extended family (the Cucurbitaceae group to be exact). But, that clan also includes some foods you’re probably a lot more familiar with such as butternut, acorn, hubbard and turban squash, pumpkin, zucchini, cucumbers and melons (honeydew, cantaloupe, etc.).
So, the answer to, “Are gourds good for you?” would have to be a resounding yes (if you consider all the kinfolk that is – a pretty impressive bunch!). Just one word of caution: bitter melon has been used medicinally for years to control blood sugar and has been known to cause hypoglycemic reactions if used in conjunction with diabetes medications. For more info about its uses and risks, click here.
Ok, a few gourdeous facts before I sign off:
-There American Gourd Society (AGS) is based in Kokomo, IN
-The AGS publishes The Gourd Magazine
-The Gourd Magazine is not to be confused with Gourder’s Magazine, also devoted to gourds
-There are many annual gourd festivals around the country, from Virginia to Texas to California.
-The Gourds, a popular Austin band says their music is “for the unwashed and well read.”
P.S. I took this photo at my local market – a Cucurbitaceae family portrait!