*Nigerian girls carrying large bottle gourds – image by W Robert Moore, National Geographic
A gourd is a plant of the family Cucurbitaceae, particularly Cucurbita and Lagenaria or the fruit of the two genera of Bignoniaceae "calabash tree", Crescentia and Amphitecna.The term refers to a number of species and subspecies, many with hard shells, and some without. Likely one of the earliest domesticated types of plants, subspecies of the bottle gourd, Lagenaria siceraria, have been discovered in archaeological sites dating from as early as 13,000 BC. Gourds have had numerous uses throughout history, including as tools, musical instruments, objects of art, film, and food.
Gourd is occasionally used to describe crop plants in the family Cucurbitaceae, like pumpkins, cucumbers, squash, luffa, and melons.There are many different gourds worldwide.Since the beginning of their history, they have had a multitude of uses, including food, kitchen tools, toys, musical instruments and decoration. Today, gourds are commonly used for a wide variety of crafts, including jewelry, furniture, dishes, utensils and a wide variety of decorations using carving, burning and other techniques
Typically, the edible plants under this family are referred to as squash, and the ornamental (i.e. hard-shelled, inedible, and generally un-tasty) plants are referred to as gourds. Buy a gourd to use as a cute decoration in the house, or buy a squash to use in a seasonal fall recipe.