9 Fun Fall Gourd and Pumpkin Facts

Discover which country once used gourds as currency, which Japanese game is played with watermelons, and a wide variety of pumpkin facts.

pumpkinsCourtesy Bill Farrell/Country magazine
Get ready for fall fun with these pumpkin and gourd facts.

Pumpkins and Halloween go hand-in-hand here in the U.S. and Canada. Put down your pumpkin carving knife and grab a piece of pumpkin bread while you enjoy these fun gourd pumpkin facts this fall!

1. Pumpkins Are Part of the Winter Squash Family

Shutterstock 115280119Oksana Shufrych/Shutterstock
Colorful varieties of squash

Winter squashes are usually defined as those harvested later in the season, with tough outer rinds. Summer squash are harvested earlier and have more tender skins, like zucchini. All belong to the genus Cucurbita. In Australia and New Zealand, the word “pumpkin” refers to any type of winter squash, including those like butternut squash and acorn squash. Pumpkins are native to North America, along with all other varieties of squash, but have become a favorite vegetable in many parts of the world.

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2. The World’s Largest Pumpkin Weighed 2,703 Pounds 

The record was set by Stefano Cutrupi in Italy. The Guinness Book of World Records says that massive gourd was larger than a Nissan car, and heavier than 17 adult men!

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3. The Gourd Family is Plenty Large

how to grow pumpkinsEyeWolf/Getty Images
Pumpkins and gourds in a wheelbarrow

If you’d like to grow gourds in your garden, you’ll have plenty of varieties from which to choose. The plant family “Cucurbitaceae,” a.k.a. the gourd family, contains about 975 species. Aside from pumpkins, melons, cucumbers and squashes are part of the group, too. Shared traits include growing quickly and on vines, and sensitivity to temperatures near freezing.

4. There’s a Unique Japanese Game Involving Gourds

Suikawari is a Japanese tradition in which blindfolded participants use a wooden stick (called a bokken) to try to split a watermelon, which is placed on a covering on the ground. Players have a limited time to complete the challenge, and everyone eats the watermelon afterward. There are “official rules” for the game, but generally, groups are free to play as they wish.

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5. Not Every Pumpkin is Good for Pie

Toad pumpkins, pumpkin factsPhoto courtesy Harris Seeds
Toad pumpkins

Nature has provided us with a variety of pumpkin types, and humans have cultivated and hybridized even more. Pumpkins used for carving are usually larger types like ‘Connecticut Field’ and ‘Howden’. Those used for cooking and baking are smaller varieties known as “sugar pumpkins”, and include ‘New England Pie Pumpkin’ and ‘Baby Pam’.

White pumpkins like ‘Baby Boo’ and ‘Caspar’ are gaining in popularity, too. These pumpkins are white on the outside but retain the bright orange flesh inside, so they make for interesting carved pumpkins.

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6. Gourds Were Once Used as Money

In the early 1800s in Haiti, gourds were temporarily the nation’s official currency. That history is present today—Haiti’s standard coin is called a gourde.

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7. Jack-o-lanterns Weren’t Originally Made From Pumpkins

pumpkin with flowersTaste of Home/RDA Milwaukee
A carved pumpkin makes a festive fall centerpiece

The idea of carving fall veggies goes back a long way. Many attribute the first Halloween-style carvings to the Irish, who usually used turnips or beets. When folks from these countries came to America, they found pumpkins worked even better, and started using them as well.

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8. Pumpkin is a Very Versatile Food

If the only way you’ve ever had pumpkin is in a pie, you’re missing out! Pumpkin can be stewed, roasted, baked, and even pickled. Roast and season pumpkin seeds for a delicious treat (or offer unsalted, unseasoned s to your backyard birds). And if you can catch them early in the season, fry your pumpkin blossoms for a Southwestern treat.

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9. One Gourd Makes for a Particularly Healthy Snack

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For a healthy snack, slice up some cucumbers.

Cucumbers are more than 95% water, which means they’re relatively low in sodium, calories and saturated fat. One cup of sliced cucumbers contains about 16 calories.

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Jill Staake
Jill lives in Tampa, Florida, and writes about gardening, butterflies, outdoor projects and birding. When she's not gardening, you'll find he reading, traveling and happily digging her toes into the sand on the beach.