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Common Types of Squash & The Difference Between Pumpkins, Gourds & Squash

Updated on November 4, 2014

Know your squash!

Squash is an alternative name for plants that are within the gourd family. Most varieties of squash have a seeded core which is surrounded by soft flesh encased in a skin which is usually hard. There is a huge range of squash and they are usually set into either a winter squash or summer squash category. No matter what type, all squash are usually delicious, and have many different culinary uses.

Common types of squash include zucchini, which is long, thin and green, and spaghetti squash, which is oblong in shape and yellow in color and splits into shapes like noodles when cooked.

Common types of squash that are considered summer varieties mature and ripen quicker than winter types, as the skin is a lot thinner. Summer squash can also be eaten raw so you will often find it on vegetable dishes or mixed with salads. Many types of cuisines will also use summer squash in stir fires, chutneys and salads.

The Difference Between Pumpkins, Gourds and Squash

Many find the difference between pumpkins, gourds and squash confusing, as they are names of the different forms of summer and winter vegetables, which all come from the same Cucurbita family. What makes it more confusing is that some cultures, such as Australia, use the term pumpkins for all types of squashes!

The Cucurbita family houses the pumpkin, the gourd and the squash, and has sub-categories called the Cucurbita moschata, Cucurbita maxima and the Cucurbita pepo.

Pumpkins are usually recognized as being the pepo. The stems are woody and the skin is hard and orange. However, the pepo group also covers others such as the patty-pan squash, gray and black zucchini, scallop summer squash and the summer crookneck squash.

One main difference is that a gourd is generally something you just look at, while you cook squash and you carve a pumpkin. However, this is not always the case, as some types of pumpkins are cooked and consumed, while some gourds are carved.

Additionally, summer squash has a softer more delicate skin and flesh while the winter squashes have a coarse, harder skin and tougher flesh. The winter squash, or pumpkin is more suited to harsher weather conditions. Although there are many different types of pumpkin, several look like the Jack-o-Lantern type that is most used during the fall and on Halloween.

Common types of summer squash

Common types of summer squash often seen in supermarkets include zucchini, and the yellow crookneck, sometimes referred to as yellow zucchini.

If summer squash is left on the vine or in cupboards for too long it can turn too woody, which results in its flavor being lost. So if you are buying them from a store opt for those that are smaller in size and firm, rather than large bruised ones.

Common types of winter squash

There are more varieties of winter than summer squash, but the one that is most common and often used is the butternut squash. Winter varieties also last a lot longer and are usually kept in a dry and cool place throughout the winter. Common types of squash from the winter varieties are great to use in stews, soups and even roasted. Most people use winter squash (butternut squash in pumpkin pie, rather than actual pumpkin.

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