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A gourd is a plant of the family Cucurbitaceae. Gourd is occasionally used to describe crops like cucumbers, squash, luffas, and melons. The term gourd, however, can more specifically refer to the plants of the two Cucurbitaceae genera Lagenaria and Cucurbita, or also to their hollow, dried-out shell. The hard-rinded fruits can have carving done to create scenes raised in relief. Painting and wood burning are also used to decorate the shells.
Gourds are one of the earliest crops to be domesticated by man, having been grown for at least 10,000 years as ornamentation or for making musical instruments and utensils. Normally they are inedible due to a lack of flesh or bad taste, although some varieties such as the snake gourd can be eaten in addition to utilitarian purposes. Gourds of the Lagenaria genus favor a subtropical or tropical climate and grow poorly in cooler regions, so most varieties planted in Zone 7 and below are derived from Curcubita.
Scientists in India have now crossbred six other less popular members of the gourd genus found in the country. These include Teasle gourd (Momordica Dioica), Spine gourd (Momordica Subangulata), Sweet gourd (Momordica cochinchinensis), balsam apple (Momordica balsamina), Momordica sahyadrica, known as vaika in Kerala and Momordica cymbalaria, called athalakka’iin Tamil Nadu. This will make the lesser known gourds commonly available.
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