In the Aisles

Gourds – All You Need to Know | Instacart Guide to Fresh Produce



Jun 21, 2021

What are gourds?

Gourds are often thought of as decorative fall items found at farms and in rustic baskets. But they are actually a part of the fresh produce family and can be included in many of your meals. They belong to the Cucurbitaceae family, the same family as pumpkins, cucumbers, melons, and squash.

Gourds may be edible or simply used for decoration. Some have hard shells, and others have softer ones. As many as 700 gourd species have been identified worldwide. Most gourds are not grown for eating, but young luffa gourds (also known as Chinese okra) can be consumed, provided they’re less than 6in. The bottle gourd (also called a calabash) has a hard outside that might not seem palatable, but the inside can be eaten. It has a similar appearance to an oversized cucumber or an eggplant. The Italian edible gourd (or cucuzzi) is long and thin. All of these varieties taste like mild zucchinis.

Edible gourds are most commonly used in Asian cooking. They must be carefully peeled and, because the skin is often tough, a knife is usually a better tool than a vegetable peeler. The seeds are scooped out, and the white flesh is cubed or sliced. They are then boiled for about 20 minutes until fork-tender. They can then be mixed with noodles, rice, and spices.

Decorative gourds are known for their vibrant colors and often bumpy and gnarly surfaces. Especially in autumn months, they are turned into decorative displays for tabletops, doorways, and lawns. Ornamental gourds may have smooth and plain surfaces or be warty, patterned, or striped.

Where did gourds originate from?

Gourds are one of the oldest forms of fresh produce and are thought to originate in southern Africa. They were brought to Europe and the Americas years ago and were even found in Peruvian archaeological dig sites that dated back to 13,000 BCE. Researchers also found them in ancient Thailand digs from 11,000 BCE and Egyptian tombs. Gourds are even mentioned in the Bible.

Gourds have had many utilitarian uses over the years. They have been used as drinking vessels, birdhouses, prosthetic devices, floatation devices, and loofahs. Medicine men even used them to repair skull fractures in early surgeries.

What are the benefits of eating gourds?

Like pumpkins, gourds have many nutritional benefits. Gourds contain beta-carotene and vitamin C, both of which are immunity boosters. They may also reduce inflammation, manage diabetes, and improve circulation. Gourds are reported to strengthen bones and muscles and even improve heart health.

In addition to providing up to 93% of one’s daily vitamin C dose, gourds contain niacin (B3), folic acid (B9), vitamin A, calcium, iron, thiamine (B1), and riboflavin (B2)

How are gourds grown?

Gourds are grown in rich soil and direct sun. They must be planted after the frost, spaced far apart but only 1–2in deep. Their vines can spread out in all directions and be “trained” to grow up trellises. 

Seeds germinate in about 8 to 10 days, and the plants very often have flowers. 

Gourds are usually harvested when their stems begin to turn brown and dry out. 

When are gourds in season?

Gourds usually appear in September and October. The hot summer sun contributes to their growth. Decorative gourds are especially popular during the fall, and when searching for “gourds near me,” shoppers can often find a wide range of colors, shapes, and sizes via Instacart. Produce delivery can be a great way to fill your kitchen or decorative displays quickly and efficiently. Find the freshest vegetables and fruits when they are in season.

How do you pick gourds at the grocery store?

When looking for decorative gourds, choose the shapes, sizes, and colors that fit best with your tastes and decor. Because gourds are varied and colorful, many shoppers choose multiple gourds and arrange them in unique ways. Visual appeal (color and shape) is a huge factor when picking out gourds for your home or outdoor space.

If you plan to eat a gourd, make sure the variety is actually edible. Decorative gourds are not normally eaten.

If you are looking to have your groceries delivered, you can easily shop for gourds via Instacart. After adding a product to your cart, use the “Instructions” option to notify your Instacart shopper about any preferences or specific directions on how to choose the best products. Shop for gourds.

How to store gourds

Decorative gourds can be stored in dark, warm, and dry areas that have good ventilation. When they sit on single layers of newspaper and are turned every few days, they will dry out and retain their bright colors. When their seeds rattle, they are dry. Storing them in this manner can keep them healthy and bright for up to 6 months.

How to tell if gourds are bad

Like squash, gourds get mushy and smell rotten when they go bad. They are more susceptible to rot if they are picked too early. Spots on gourds are not necessarily a sign of rotting. Because of the unusual shapes and colors of gourds, this may just be part of their natural appearance.

What can I substitute for gourds?

When using gourds for decorations or displays, shoppers can substitute pumpkins of all sizes, autumn leaves, and other fall items.

Home chefs have a wide range of alternatives to edible gourds. Replicate a bitter taste in Asian cooking with bitter melon. Looking for more of a squash-like taste? Zucchini and pumpkin are just 2 options, along with butternut, honey nut, delicata, kabocha, spaghetti, and Hubbard squashes. In fact, about 23 different types of squash exist.

Gourds can be eaten, but their inherent value is most often decorative. Unless making a specific Asian delicacy, most home chefs opt to use squash or pumpkin when looking for a hearty vegetable to use in stews or soups or as a side dish to protein.

How can I find gourds near me?

Perhaps fall has not yet arrived. That’s not a problem. Instacart partners with grocery stores that keep gourds in stock all year round. Find gourds for same-day delivery and pick up via Instacart.

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