Halloween unofficially kicks off decorative gourd season, which has us wondering, “Can you eat gourds?” It seems wasteful that the only purpose these curvy squashes and pattenered gourds hold is as centerpieces for Thanksgiving dinners.
“Can you eat decorative gourds” is a popular question this time of year, and the answer is yes, you can eat gourds — but only certain ones. Gourds aren’t as popular a food option as squashes (and no, gourds and squashes are not the same thing) because they require extra effort to prepare. However, they can be pretty darn delicious and versatile if you know how to cook them.
Before you start carving into your gourds, though, you’ll probably want to know what gourds taste like. The flavor of a gourd is more bitter than your average squash, and it’s better to eat gourds before they’re ripe, as this is when they’re softer and sweeter.
One particularly tasty gourd is Turk’s turban (it literally looks like a hat), a softer variety that’s great for soups, according to chef Ken Oringer. Turk’s turban is a fantastic meat substitute that can take a starring role in any dish, or it can shine off to the side as an alternative to stuffed peppers or a bread bowl. Simply fill it up with yummy ingredients, bake it in the oven, and you have a hearty dinner in no time at all.
Bottle gourds, also known as calabash, are another great gourd to cook with. This eggplant lookalike is ideal for curries, Chef Oringer says. Mix it with red curry paste, coconut milk, lemongrass, ginger, and fish sauce for an authentic Thai-style curry.
Like squashes, gourds also house hundreds of seeds, which can be roasted. Oringer suggests toasting gourd seeds and cooking them like risotto with chicken or vegetable stock. Yum! Add in garlic, onions, and Parmesan for an autumn dish that will warm you from the inside out.
This fall, it’s time to move your gourds from the center of your table to the center of your kitchen. Squash’s equally scrumptions cousin deserves its chance to shine — and your stomach will surely thank you.