While most sane people steer clear of these off-putting, rejected squashes — perhaps in fear that the haphazard bumps and off-colour patterns are transferable through mere touch — some of the populous is indeed thrilled to have those dumb yet festive-looking gourds readily available in the produce aisle again.
“September is definitely our busiest time of year for them,” says local produce manager Stephanie Miller about the bumpy, maybe-they-were-supposed-to-be-pumpkins-at-one-point gourds. “It’s like Christmas for folks in the decorative gourd industry.
“There’s just something about the changing seasons that drives people to fill woven baskets with gourds and leave them sporadically around the house. . . Now that I think about it, gourds don’t really make a lot of sense, do they?”
Aborted squash fetuses — or decorative gourds, as they’re most commonly called — have always been a fall favourite, often used as an aesthetic table setting at festive dinners, in seasonal ornamental arrangements, and as a recurring fixture in most of our night terrors.
“What people don’t seem to know about decorative gourds is most are either the lagenaria and cucurbita genres, which belong to the cucurbitacae genus,” Miller explains. “These names might sound like weird, silly names, but that’s just because they’re meant to describe weird, silly plants like gourds.”
Exactly where these botanical nightmares originated from has never been fully proven, though several theories do exist. Some religious organizations claim that every time someone renounces their faith, God punishes humanity by turning an adorable puppy into a decorative gourd, while a more far-fetched theory is that they’re relatively easy to grow in most climates, but do better in warm environments.
Historically, the first evidence of decorative gourds dates back to around 500 AD in Ancient Greece, courtesy of an urn discovered off the coast of Crete. The artifact, now on display at the Archaeological Museum of Chania, boasts a rather graphic depiction of Hades, supposed ruler of the Underworld, pelting what appear to be non-followers with these bumpy rejects.
While the origins and exact purpose of decorative gourds remain a mystery, citizens of the world are relieved to know that their Thanksgiving cornucopias will once again be filled with something as festive and pointless as the cornucopias themselves.