A gourd is a plant of the family Cucurbitaceae, particularly Cucurbita and Lagenaria or the fruit of the two genera of Bignoniaceae “calabash tree”, Crescentia and Amphitecna.
The term refers to a number of species and subspecies, many with hard shells, and some without. Likely one of the earliest domesticated types of plants, subspecies of the bottle gourd, Lagenaria siceraria, have been discovered in archaeological sites dating from as early as 13,000 BC. Today, research is being conducted into bitter gourds, Momordica charantia, to reduce its unpleasant taste while keeping the nutritional and medicinal benefits. Gourds have had numerous uses throughout history, including as tools, musical instruments, objects of art, film, and food.
Gourd is occasionally used to describe crop plants in the family Cucurbitaceae, like pumpkins, cucumbers, squash, luffa, and melons. More specifically, gourd refers to the fruits of plants in the two Cucurbitaceae genera Lagenaria and Cucurbita, or also to their hollow, dried-out shell. A gourd can also have a hard shell when dehydrated.
There are many different gourds worldwide. The main plants referred to as gourds include several species from the Cucurbita genus (mostly native to North America, including the Malabar gourd and turban squash), Crescentia cujete (the tree gourd or calabash tree, native to the American tropics) and Lagenaria siceraria (bottle gourd). Other plants with gourd in their name include the uffa gourd (likely domesticated in Asia), which includes several species from the Luffa genus, as well as the wax gourd, snake gourd, teasle gourd, hedgehog gourd, buffalo gourd/coyote gourd. The bitter melon/balsam apple/balsam pear is also sometimes referred to as a gourd.
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