Thanksgiving table with fall squashes.

Fall Gourds And Squashes: What They Are And How To Use Them

Molly Grace4-minute read
November 06, 2019

Leaves are falling, the air is crisp and pumpkin spice lattes are in all the coffee shops. Folks, fall is here!

Pumpkins are usually the star this time of year. We pick them at pumpkin patches, buy pumpkin desserts and think of clever ways to decorate our home with them. Pumpkins reign supreme, but they aren’t the only fall food/decor combo out there! Let’s take a look at a few different kinds of squashes and gourds that you can use for cooking or decorating this fall.

What’s The Difference Between A Squash And A Gourd?

Squashes and gourds are members of the Cucurbitaceae family. This is a massive plant group containing over 900 species of plants including gourds, melons, squashes and pumpkins, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. (Believe it or not, pumpkins are actually considered to be a type of squash!)

Really the main distinction between squashes and gourds is that squashes are grown and harvested to eat, while gourds tend to be cultivated for decoration purposes.

The squashes and gourds we’ll be talking about here are often referred to as winter squash. Don’t let the name fool you; they aren’t grown in the winter. These plants are harvested in late summer and early fall. They’re called winter squash because, unlike their summer counterparts, they have a hard, thick rind that doesn’t bruise easily and keeps longer even into the winter.

By contrast, summer squashes have tender, edible rinds. Squashes in this group include zucchini and yellow squash.

Now that you have a better understanding of squashes and gourds, let’s take a look at some common ones you can find at your local farmers market as well as a few ideas on how you can use them.

Autumn Wing Gourd

Pile of autumn wing gourds.

These guys come in very unique shapes, like spoons with little wings or horns. Each one looks different, and they make wonderful decorations.

Autumn wing gourds aren’t really intended for eating, but their traditional fall colors really spruce up a table or a mantle. If you like a gourd with a more natural, imperfect or even “ugly” look, autumn wing is a great go-to option.

These gourds have character on their own, but if you’re not a fan of traditional fall colors or if you just want to jazz them up a bit more, try giving your autumn wing gourd a paint job. A few bright purple gourds could be a fun addition to your Halloween decor.

Warted Gourds

Three warted gourds.

Also not intended for consumption, warted gourds are a fall decorating staple. Their unique sizes, shapes and colors make them perfect for a fun fall display!

These gourds get their name from their appearance, since it looks like there are little warts all over them. (Don’t worry, they’re not real warts.)

If you buy smaller warted gourds, a fun way to use them is to drill a small hole in the center just large enough for a tea light or a candlestick. If you like the larger ones, you can set them out as-is almost like a pumpkin.

Butternut Squash

Cook It!

Bowl of butternut squash soup.

Butternut squash is similar to a pumpkin. In Australia and New Zealand, they’re sometimes referred to as butternut pumpkin. It even tastes similar to pumpkin!

The outside is a pale tone but the inside is a vibrant orange, adding color to any fall plate. They’re versatile, too. They can be roasted, toasted, pureed or mashed.

Looking for a butternut squash recipe to try this fall? Try brown butter butternut squash soup from The Kitchy Kitchen.

Decorate It!

Pile of butternut squashes.
Remember, butternut squashes are versatile. They can be used for decoration, too! This project from Better Homes and Gardens is a fantastic example. Cut off the top of your squash and hollow it out. Toss in some fresh-cut fall blossoms and you’ve got yourself a unique and rather stunning vase!

Sweet Dumpling Squash

Sweet dumpling squash against white background.

These squashes are little, but they pack a big flavor punch! As you probably guessed from their name, these are a small, sweet squash. What you might not have guessed was how pretty they look on a plate!

Want to wow guests at your next dinner party? Try out this quinoa stuffed sweet dumpling squash recipe from The Kitchn.

Spaghetti Squash

Cooked spaghetti squash.

Spaghetti squashes are on the larger side; if you’re cooking a spaghetti squash for one person, you’ll probably have leftovers. They’re called spaghetti squash because when you scrape it with a fork the meat falls out in strands, like spaghetti.

You can use this squash as an alternative to pasta. They’re a little sweet, so I like to use them in a savory recipe like this spaghetti squash and sausage dish from White On Rice Couple.

Acorn Squash

Cook It!

Roasted acorn squash.

Last on this list is acorn squash. It’s a fitting name since it looks kind of like a big green acorn. There are numerous ways to use this mild squash, but if you have a sweet tooth you’ll devour these streuseled acorn squash muffins from Spoon Fork Bacon.

Decorate It!

Acorn squash against white background.

If you tend to be a little creative, you might appreciate this clever use for acorn squash. According to Martha Stewart, when you cut off the top and scrape out the meat you can use the squash as a candle mold to make festive fall candles. The curvy flower-petal shape of acorn squash makes for an adorable candle form.

Not only is it cute, but it would also make a great host or hostess gift for any fall dinner party.

These are just a few of the gourd and squash options out there. There are several hundred more varieties!

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Molly Grace

Molly Grace is a staff writer focusing on mortgages, personal finance and homeownership. She has a B.A. in journalism from Indiana University. You can follow her on Twitter @themollygrace.