The Cucurbitaceae plant family contains nearly 975 species including pumpkins, zucchinis, squashes, cucumbers, watermelons, muskmelons, and gourds.
This family is often commonly called the gourd family, but not every plant in it is actually a gourd.
For example, the Cucurbitaceae family also includes melons. If these plants are all grouped together, then how do they stand out from each other?
What is the difference between a melon and a gourd?
As members of the Cucurbitaceae family, most melons and gourds grow with sprawling vines and have yellow flowers (except for bottle gourds). But many of their features are quite different including shape, use, and nutritional value.
In this article, we take a close look at the differences between melons and gourds with examples of each. We’ll also include highlights for features such as growth rate and shelf life so you can make the right choice for your garden.
What Is the Difference Between a Melon and a Gourd?
Gourds typically fall under 2 genera: Cucurbita and Lagenaria. Melons, on the other hand, fall under the Citrullus and Cucumis.
Uses and Edibility
Gourds can be edible or inedible. Usually, young gourds are the edible types while older gourds are ornamental.
Mature gourds are used in crafts. You’ll typically find them being converted into bottles, cups, whistles, containers, pipes, boxes, floats, and fishnets.
Melons, on the other hand, are mainly culinary in use. They are typically sweet, fleshy, and sometimes juicy. They can be eaten raw, used to make fruit juices, or used as garnishing.
In some cases, melon seeds are dried and grounded. After grinding, they are used as an ingredient in various types of soup. This is particularly common in West Africa.
The fruit from gourd plants come in various shapes including pear, bottle, teardrop, round, and canteen.
Unlike gourds, melons usually have round or elongated bodies.
Gourds come in various colors. Gourd fruits come in different shades of green. They can also be yellow, orange, red, brown, and ash.
Melons commonly have green rinds but can occasionally be yellow and orange. In the case of cucumbers, the rind could also be white.
Examples of gourds include:
- Bottle gourds
Examples of melons include:
- Oriental Melons
Comparing Common Melons and Gourds
Differences Between Cucumber and Pumpkin
Pumpkins are typically round, squat, and uneven. In some cases, they can be long in shape.
Cucumbers are usually elongated like a cylinder. They have a shape called cucumiform. Occasionally, cucumbers can be shaped like a bulb.
Pumpkins are available in 7 colors: orange, red, green, tan, white, blue, and yellow.
Cucumbers are commonly green. However, they are also available in white, orange, and yellow.
Pumpkins contain relatively higher levels of some minerals and vitamins than cucumbers.
In pumpkins, you’ll find more of the following vitamins:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B1
- Vitamin B2
- Vitamin B3
- Vitamin B5
- Vitamin B6
- Folate (Vitamin B9)
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin A
Pumpkins also contain more calcium, potassium, iron, zinc, copper, and phosphorus than cucumbers. They are also more rich in both protein and carbohydrates compared to cucumbers.
On the other hand, cucumbers have more sodium and Vitamin K than pumpkins.
Generally, it takes about 3 months (90-100 days) for a pumpkin to become mature after planting it.
Cucumbers takes a relatively shorter time for them to hit maturity at only 2 to 2.5 months (55-70 days).
Shelf Life and Storage
Cucumbers can stay fresh for up to 2 weeks under appropriate storage conditions. Such conditions include low temperatures (55°F works best), aeration, and the absence of germs and dirt.
When cucumbers are stored at temperatures less than 40°F, they become pitted and soggy. They do not do well when stored in a freezer.
Pumpkins can last for 2-3 months when uncut and stored in a cool, dark place. They can go even longer when refrigerated, averaging 3-5 months when uncut.
Differences Between Cucumber and Zucchini
The flesh of a cucumber is usually pale-green to white. On the other hand, the flesh of a zucchini is closer to creamy white in color.
When you cut a cucumber, you will see the seeds running down the middle.
On the other hand, the seeds of a zucchini are usually not visible when you cut it open. The seeds typically blend with the flesh.
Zucchinis contain more Vitamin C, potassium, Vitamin B6, and protein than cucumbers. But cucumbers contain more dietary fiber and beta-carotene than zucchinis.
Zucchinis can be cooked, fried, baked, sautéed, or used in different ways while cooking.
Cucumbers, on the other hand, can be eaten raw or pickled.
While cucumbers take around 55-70 days (2-2.5 months) to become ripe, zucchinis take around 35-55 days (1-2 months) to become full-grown.
When stored whole at around 55°F, cucumbers can remain fresh for 2 weeks. On the other hand, when zucchinis are stored in a refrigerator, they can last for 1-2 weeks.
The main differences between melons and gourds are in their general edibility and uses. While most melons are edible, not all gourds are edible. Also, while most melons have mainly culinary uses, gourds are typically used in making crafts. Both gourds and melons can also vary quite drastically in shape and appearance from one another despite belonging to the same plant family.