Getting the Most out of Your Squash and Gourds
Most of us have eaten some form of squash. From roasted acorn squash to butternut squash soup, the culinary applications for these fruits are boundless. You can also use dried gourds as birdhouses, cups, musical instruments and more.
The Cucurbit family is host to the largest fruit in the world, which at this date is a mammoth pumpkin weighing 1337 pounds. Any group of plants capable of producing something this mammoth should have its day in the sun and be celebrated for the champions they are.
Food is a great way to celebrate these fruits. Pumpkin pie, roasted stuffed squash, dried chips, roasted seeds and fried zucchini are only some of the ways to use this food group. You can mash, fry, dry, puree, cube, barbecue, roast, steam and bake them. Even canned squash is useful later in the season to add to recipes or use as homemade baby food. Some more novel recipes might include butternut squash lasagne, cinnamon pumpkin spread, Savory or sweet bread and muffins, butternut cheesecake bars, squash seed pesto and salted seasoned squash seeds of any variety. Dried gourd strips are a traditional ingredient for sushi. Squash have many different flavors and textures but are generally mild. As such, they take to a variety of seasonings and stand out especially well in ethnic food. Try a Mexican, Asian, Indian, or Italian version for a fun dinner packed with Vitamin C and antioxidants.
You can have more fun with squash and gourds then just trying out new recipes. Gourd birdhouses are a creative project but they can also be used to make lamps, bowls or strung along the fence as a garland. Preserving gourds after you carve them will make them last for years. Calabash gourds are traditionally used in Central and South America. They are painted and made into shakers, bowls, containers and ornaments. Lagenaria gourds become bottles, baskets and more. To cure the gourd you must first harvest it correctly. Wait until the stem has withered and browned then remove the fruit and wash it well. Hang the gourd up or place in a well-ventilated warm, dry location for 1 to 6 months to dry. Most ornamental gourds do not require you to remove the skin, but the Lagenaria does need the outer shell removed to reveal the smooth inner gourd. You will know when the gourd is done curing when you hear the seeds rattling inside.
For the Health Conscious
Pumpkins contain high levels of antioxidant Vitamins C and A. They are also filled with alpha-hydroxy acids which make them a natural for skin care. Pureed, cooked pumpkin mixed into a sugar scrub removes dead skin cells and beautifies the complexion. Small squash and gourds, cut in half make excellent molds for candles, or gelatine. Fill them with custard and bake them, or soup and eat right out of them. Loofah comes from a gourd. It is the dried interior flesh of the fruit, which is commonly used to scrub off dead skin cells. The citron is a gourd that is used to preserve other food and the rind is made into pickles and conserves. Cured gourds may be painted, etched, carved or have intricate designs burnt into them. Turn these into sconces or even lamp stands. There are so many uses for gourds both traditionally and in the modern home they are worth growing and playing with.
With Halloween just around the corner and Thanksgiving coming up, using gourds and squash as simple table decor or as serving bowls provides a true autumn touch to these celebrations. If all else fails and you have exhausted every single one of these ideas, simply pile them up on your porch or front steps to allow the cool air to keep them longer and provide a colorful and unique statement of your gardening abilities.