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Gourds come from the family Cucurbitaceae which includes melons, cucumbers, pumpkins and squashes. For the purposes of this page, I am interested in pumpkins and squashes that originate from North and South America. I am primarily interested in those used for food consumption but will include those used in traditional medical uses and those used as tools.



Chilacayote (Cucurbita ficifolia) is called "figleaf gourd" in English. Chilacayote is native to North and South America. If you have visited markets in southern Mexico you have seen chilacayote, they look just like large watermelons but they have white spots or strips on them. Chilacayote has a shelf life of a couple of years if kept dry. Seeds, leaves, tender shoots and the fruit of the chilacayote are edible. Chilacayote can be found year round.

sliced chilacayote

Pumpkin Seeds, see Squash Seeds

Squash Flower

Flor de Calabaza

Flor de calabaza is squash flower. Flor de calabaza is usually served in quesadillas (roasted or fried tortillas stuffed with cheese) and in soups.

Squash Leaves

squash leaves

Hojas de calabaza or squash leaves are eaten when young and tender. Older leaves are used as the shell casings for some types of tamales.

Squash Seeds

semillas de calabaza

Semillas de calabaza are unshelled squash seeds (often pumpkin seeds). Semillas de calabaza are a popular and common snack sold on street corners and in markets throughout Mexico. A small bag of roasted and slightly salted pumpkin seeds will cost 10 pesos or US .50 (Dec. 2019). While eating pumpkin seeds, some people will carefully remove the husks and spit them out and but most will eat them whole. For a larger image of semillas de calabaza click here.


Pepitas or pepitas de calabaza are unshelled pumpkin (and other types of squash) seeds. Pepitas are sometimes ground up and used in mole sauces. Raw unsalted pepitas taste similar to raw unsalted sunflower seeds. Pepitas enchiladas are roasted pepitas that have been salted and seasoned with chile powder. For a larger image of pepitas click here. A small bag of pepitas will cost 10 pesos or US .50 (Jan. 2020).

Footnotes and Notes

Photo Credits

Photos taken by Marc Wilkinson. I, the copyright holder, hereby publish these photos under the following license: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0).