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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This article refers to the dried fruit shell. For the alternative country musical group of a similar name, see The Gourds.
A calabash gourd, used for drinking mate.
A calabash gourd, Turkish gourd lamp.

A gourd is a plant of the family Cucurbitaceae, or a name given to the hollow, dried shell of a fruit in the Cucurbitaceae family of plants of the genus Lagenaria. It is in the same family as the pumpkin.[1][2]

Most commonly, gourds are the product of the species Lagenaria siceraria (the calabash or African bottle gourd), native to Africa, and at a very early date spread throughout the world by human migrations. This species may be the oldest plant domesticated by humans.

Gourds can be used as a number of things, including bowls or bottles. Gourds are also used as resonating chambers on certain musical instruments including the berimbau and many other stringed instruments and drums. Instruments of this type are fairly common to the Caribbean. Gourds are also used as a vessel for sipping yerba mate by means of a bombilla, in Chile, Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil, where it is called "cuia." Birdhouse gourds are commonly used in southern USA for group housing for purple martins, which reputedly help control mosquitoes. "Gourd" can also refer to the live fruit before it is dried, or to the entire plant that produces that fruit.



Day-blooming gourds are pollinated in the same way as squash, and commercial plantings should have bee hives supplied. Night blooming gourds are pollinated by moths, which are normally present in adequate supply unless they are drawn off by night lights in the area.

Gourds were the earliest plant species domesticated by humans and were originally used by people as containers or vessels before clay or stone pottery, and is sometimes referred to as "nature's pottery". The original and evolutional shape of clay pottery is thought to have been modeled on the shape of certain gourd varieties.

Recent DNA analyses of bottle gourds found at several sites throughout the Americas has resolved a long-standing mystery, as well as adding evidence establishing the early date of domestication of the bottle gourd plant. As the bottle gourd is native to Africa and not the Americas, archeologists previous to the analyses could only speculate that it had probably floated across the Atlantic. But upon examining the DNA, they found that the American samples most closely matched the varieties of the African bottle gourd found in Asia, not Africa. It was thus concluded that the bottle gourd had been deliberately brought by early migrants from Asia to the Americas, at a time pre-dating the domestication of plants for food anywhere on Earth. [3]

Gourds grown in a suburban garden
Sponge gourd section magnified 100 times
Example of gourd art

Other uses

In addition to utilitarian uses, gourds have seen other functions throughout history in various cultures. Very early specimens of squash shells discovered (for example, in Peru) indicate the use of squashes as means of recording events of the time. In North America, the carving of pumpkins and some other squashes into Jack-o-Lanterns is a popular cultural activity during Halloween.

Generally, gourds are used more for utilitarian uses than for food. Only a few varieties are harvested for consumption, mostly in Asia. The shell of the gourd, when dried, has a wooden appearance. Gourd "wood" is essentially cellulose that has no grain, varying in thickness from paper-thin to well over an inch. Drying gourds, which takes months in some cases, causes the internal contents (seeds and fruit matter) to dry out completely, although seeds are often still capable of germination. For the uninitiated, cutting open a dried gourd (with a craft knife or miniature jig-saw) can present hazards; the resulting dust is extremely fine and can cause respiratory problems, and requires adequate protection. A bitter taste or smell is typically evident when opening a gourd that is not completely dry inside.

It has also been found that gourd skins were used to replace missing portions of skulls in Neolithic times as part of surgery. This is seen as evidence of prostheses made of very fine gold sheet and gourd skins, which were inserted in the skull under the skin or to cover the hole left by the operation.

The harder outer surface lends the gourd to a wide variety of creative appeals, including carving, pyrography, sculpture, basketry, masks, musical instruments, and more. A growing following has emerged in the United States and other Western countries for Gourd art and craft-related purposes. There are many different types of decorative gourds. They include spoon gourds, spoon bicolor, orange warted, and striped pear. The spoon gourd ripens from the top to the bottom. A baby spoon gourd is green and as it grows it changes color. A yellow color overlaps the green and creates a two colored gourd. For decorative purposes the harvester can harvest the gourd early, when it has two colors.

White gourd juice is also a common beverage retailed in China and Chinese outlets outside China. It has a unique, smokey taste.

See also


  1. ^ gourd Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved 6 September 2006
  2. ^ gourd Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, 1913 Edition. Retrieved 6 September 2006.
  3. ^ Ancient Humans Brought Bottle Gourds To The Americas From Asia

External links


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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From LoveToKnow 1911

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Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

  1. Jonah's gourd (Jonah 4:6-10), bearing the Hebrew name kikayon (found only here), was probably the kiki of the Egyptians, the croton. This is the castor-oil plant, a species of ricinus, the palma Christi, so called from the palmate division of its leaves. Others with more probability regard it as the cucurbita the el-keroa of the Arabs, a kind of pumpkin peculiar to the East. "It is grown in great abundance on the alluvial banks of the Tigris and on the plain between the river and the ruins of Nineveh." At the present day it is trained to run over structures of mud and brush to form boots to protect the gardeners from the heat of the noon-day sun. It grows with extraordinary rapidity, and when cut or injured withers away also with great rapidity.
  2. Wild gourds (2Kg 4:38-40), Heb. pakkuoth, belong to the family of the cucumber-like plants, some of which are poisonous. The species here referred to is probably the colocynth (Cucumis colocynthus). The LXX. render the word by "wild pumpkin." It abounds in the desert parts of Syria, Egypt, and Arabia. There is, however, another species, called the Cucumis prophetarum, from the idea that it afforded the gourd which "the sons of the prophets" shred by mistake into their pottage.
This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

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This article needs to be merged with GOURD (Jewish Encyclopedia).


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