Pumpkins, squashes and gourds
Pumpkins and squashes - savoury and sweet
Pumpkin pie, pickled gherkins, cucumber sandwiches - people eat the fruits of the plant family Cucurbitaceae either fresh or cooked, or preserve them in many different ways. They can also be used as animal food. Their flesh contains small amounts of starch, sugars, protein and fat as well as vitamin B complex, some carotenes and vitamin C. Some species have seeds rich in oil and protein. Their leaves and flowers can also be cooked as vegetables.
Since ancient times, different peoples worldwide have used squash fruits to treat a plethora of ailments and complaints from freckles to snakebites. More recently, some have been investigated as potential treatments for diabetes and HIV infection.
Gourds - growing containers
Gourds are the hard-shelled fruits of some species of Cucurbita and the bottle gourd, Lagenaria siceraria. They are also called 'calabashes'. Some gourds are edible, but only when very young.
People have cultivated gourds since prehistoric times. Archaeologists have found gourd artefacts and seeds dating back 30,000 years in the Americas and in Asia. Their hard shells, diverse in shape and size, texture and colour, are ideal for decorative and useful articles, such as containers, musical instruments, and masks. At one time, gourds were Haiti's national currency and the country's standard coin is still called a 'gourde'.
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