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Let’s talk about gourds.
It’s getting on that time of year when there’s a slight chill in the air, folks are going apple picking and the pumpkins are ripening. In the supermarkets, you’re going to see various shapes, colors, and sizes of gourds. The term “gourd” is usually used to refer to pumpkins, squash, and decorative gourds. These as well as melons, and cucumbers are all members of the cucurbit family of plants. Gourds have been domesticated for thousands of years, and have been used for everything from food to musical instruments. Today, many gourds are grown purely for decoration.
Decorative gourds, of course, are grown to be decorative. Now, most cucurbits contain a chemical called cucurbitacin, which can give them a bitter taste. In high enough concentrations it can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Most cultivated squashes can’t produce enough cucurbitacin to hurt anyone; the ability has been bred out. However, if they happen to cross-breed with a wild gourd, those genes can resurface. So, if you grow squashes to eat, do not save the seeds. Leave it to the professionals.
Now, when preparing any kind of gourd, whether it’s a pumpkin, squash, or decorative gourd, it’s usually best to wear gloves. This is because the juices of most gourds contain a different chemical which in some people (such as myself) can cause contact dermatitis. It’s temporary, but it’s uncomfortable. And don’t worry; once the squash is cooked, it’s perfectly safe to handle and eat. The irritant is burned off in the cooking process. This is not true of cucurbitacin, unfortunately. Happy gourd-ing!
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**Opinions expressed on blogs about which I write are the opinion of the blog authors and DO NOT necessarily reflect my own opinion.