Gourds

September 4, 2009, Posted by Carmen Lopez Marshall at 6:01 pm | No Comments

A gourd is a plant of the family Cucurbitaceae, or a name given to the hollow, dried shell of a fruit in the Cucurbitaceae family of plants of the genus Lagenaria. It is in the same family as the pumpkin.

Most commonly, gourds are the product of the species Lagenaria siceraria (the calabash or African bottle gourd), native to Africa, and at a very early date spread throughout the world by human migrations. This species may be the oldest plant domesticated by humans.

Gourds can be used as a number of things, including bowls or bottles. Gourds are also used as resonating chambers on certain musical instruments including the berimbau and many other stringed instruments and drums. Instruments of this type are fairly common to the Caribbean. Gourds are also used as a tool for sipping yerba mate by means of a bombilla, in Chile, Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil, where it is called “cuia.” Birdhouse gourds are commonly used in southern USA for group housing for purple martins, which reputedly help control mosquitoes. “Gourd” can also refer to the live fruit before it is dried, or to the entire plant that produces that fruit.

In addition to utilitarian uses, gourds have seen other functions throughout history in various cultures. Very early specimens of squash shells discovered (for example, in Peru) indicate the use of squashes as means of recording events of the time. In North America, the carving of pumpkins and some other squashes into Jack-o-Lanterns is a popular cultural activity during Halloween.

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