The term ‘gourd’ is loosely used to describe several members of the squash and melon family that are all characterised by thick skins and a watery flesh, and generally thrive in hot or tropical climates.
Edible varieties include the bitter gourd (or bitter cucumber or melon), bottle gourd (or calabash), ivy gourd, ridged gourd, snake gourd and the wax gourd (or winter melon). These gourds are particularly popular in South East Asian countries, where they are often incorporated into curries or served as a vegetable side dish.
Some hard-shelled gourds are also hollowed out for use as food and drink storage vessels.
Gourds are available year-round. Look for plump, firm fruits that feel heavy for their size.
Gourds should be stored in the salad tray of the fridge, where they will keep for 3-4 days. They do not freeze well, although some varieties such as the wax gourd may be pickled.