Life Is Gourd: 10 Things to Know about Pumpkins, Gourds & Squash

Life Is Gourd: 10 Things to Know about Pumpkins, Gourds & Squash

I’m relishing every minute we have left of the summer because I know just how fleeting the season is. Before we know it, consumers will be ready to embrace their favorite things about autumn: pumpkin spice lattes, comfort foods, and the upcoming holidays. And that means, in the fresh produce world, the spotlight will shine on pumpkins, gourds, and squash.

10 interesting facts about pumpkins, gourds & squash

What better time to learn a little more about these quintessential fixtures of autumn? Here are 10 things you might not know about pumpkins, gourds, and squash.

1. Gourds and squash are members of the Cucurbitaceae plant family, which includes over 700 species.

2. Botanically speaking, squash and gourds are fruits because they are part of the flowering plants that contain the seeds—like grapes or melons, they’re the fruit that grows on a vine. In culinary terms, however, squash is typically prepared like a vegetable in savory recipes.

3. Most gourds are not for eating, but they’re great for decorative purposes. Gourds are genetically very diverse: Some have hard shells that turn a brownish-tan as they age; others come in a variety of deep greens, burnt oranges, and goldenrod yellows. Some are lopsided and riddled with bumps; others are elongated and smooth. A collection of aesthetically-interesting gourds can add a festive element to tablescapes, centerpieces, and mantle displays.

4. Squash, on the other hand, is edible—and delicious! Squash is categorized as summer or winter squash—classifications that are based on shelf life and usage, not availability. Summer squash is tender and has a shorter shelf life; winter squash, with its harder shell, generally has a longer shelf life.

5. Squash varieties have a mild flavor and are incredibly versatile in use. Summer squash is great in stir-fries, casseroles, and soups. Winter squash can be steamed, roasted, and pureed and added to pasta dishes, stew, chili, and curries.

6. Pumpkins fall under the squash umbrella, and they’re multifunctional—i.e., ornamental and edible. Many consumers associate pumpkins with jack-o-lanterns or stoop decor, but there are plenty of ways to use them in the kitchen: small pumpkin varieties can be hollowed out and used as soup bowls; roasted pumpkin seeds can be tossed on salads and tacos or added to trail mix; pumpkin flesh can be roasted, pureed, or baked and added to all kinds of dishes.

7. While “pumpkin spice,” “pumpkin pie,” or “pumpkin-flavored” drinks, foods, and other goods (like candles or lotion) are seemingly all the rage as soon as there’s a hint of fall-like weather, many of those items don’t contain actual pumpkin. Instead, they rely on the flavors and aromas of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

8. Carrying a variety of squash is a good way to keep up with consumer trends and eating preferences, and an array of gourds can add an element of excitement to your seasonal displays. For example, Orangetti™ is a vivid-orange spaghetti squash that is easy to prepare and can be enjoyed as a healthier alternative to pasta.

9. Gourds have been used in numerous ways throughout history—for thousands of years—as tools, drinking and eating vessels, musical instruments, and birdhouses. When dried, gourd skin hardens into a wood-like texture.

10. The days leading up to Halloween are among the peak selling days for large pumpkins, but gourds, squash, and smaller pumpkins remain popular throughout autumn and Thanksgiving.

Final thoughts

Gourds and squash—including pumpkins—are fixtures of the upcoming season. Make sure you capture sales by carrying a variety of decorative gourds and squash and showing your shoppers all the ways they can be used throughout the fall months.

Use high-impact display bins in the produce aisle and store entrance to catch shoppers’ attention, offer value adds—like cubed butternut squash—and several varieties and sizes of pumpkins and gourds to meet shoppers’ needs, and cross-promote squash and gourds with other festive produce items to help drive impulse sales.

Connect with one of our fresh experts to get your pumpkin, gourd, and squash programs rolling.

Eric Chamberlain

Eric Chamberlain - category manager for fruit and pumpkins, Robinson Fresh

With expertise in melons and pumpkins, Eric has been with Robinson Fresh for over a dozen years. He is currently the category manager over fruit and pumpkins. When Eric is not at work, he’s spending time with his wife and two kids.

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