Gourd family features wide variations

The gourds are a fairly large family of plants which are all trailing vines with broad leaves. Some of them climb but most of them just trail along the ground.
In proper conditions, they are very rapid growers. The squash vines will take over your garden if you don’t watch them!
The official name of this family is Cucurbitaceae. You can see from the name that the cucumber is one of them.
The gourd family has very wide variations. The watermelon is a native of central Africa, where it grows wild. It was cultivated in Egypt under the pharoahs, and also in India.
Watermelon cultivation is at least 5,000 years old. The large fruit may weigh up to 50 pounds or more but there are smaller varieties nowadays, more suited to smaller families.
Squash are native to America. There are summer and winter squash, and green and orange squash. There are flat, round, scalloped, acorn-shaped, and long narrow squash.
Squash are easy to grow and do well in most soils.
The pumpkin is another American discovery. We all know about the pumpkins of Hallowe’en and Thanksgiving but this plant was cultivated by the Indians of the south back to at least 1500 B.C.
Cucumbers originated in Asia but are now grown throughout the world. There are all kinds, from the little tiny ones, which become gherkins, to the two or three-foot long ones which usually are grown for curiosity in the amateur gardener’s greenhouse.
Cucumbers can be quite prolific–a single plant sometimes yielding 100 fruits in a season.
The Muskmelon (or cantaloupe) also came from Asia. There are many specialized varieties (Honeydew, Persian, Odessa, etc.) which are quite distinctive in colour and taste.
Muskmelons are delicious.
And the gourds themselves deserve mention although they are not nearly as important as they used to be. Speaking of varieties, there is a whole array of peculiar gourds. Some grow over a yard long.
Many years ago, men would cut the neck off these gourds, clean out the insides, and use them for bottles. Your great-great-grandmother may well have used gourds to store sugar, flour, and other household items.
These were the calabash gourds with inch-thick shells.
In the country, beside a spring, there was always a dipper, made from a gourd, so the thirsty traveller could get a cool drink. Gourds also were used for birdhouses, kitchen utensils and even banjos.
A plant of many uses years ago, it is now pretty much just a curiosity.
There are wild gourds, as well. There are wild pumpkins, wild cucumbers, and bur cucumbers. The prickly cucumber is sometimes grown as an ornamental vine.
This family of vine plants is quite different from most other plant families. The sizes of the fruits–and the variety in size, shape, taste, and texture–make the Cucurbits one of the most useful plant families we have.

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