Once upon a time, only the most perfectly smooth pumpkins would be considered suitable autumnal decoration, and squashes with less symmetrical shapes were left on the grocery store shelves. In recent years, however, the knobbier gourds have been steadily gaining in popularity and popping up all over the place. As far as fall decor goes, the bumpier the better!
PSA: botanically speaking, the words gourd, squash, and pumpkin all mean something slightly different, but not entirely. For the most part, “squash” to refer to an edible variety, “gourd” for the tougher guys you don’t want in your tummy, and “pumpkin” for those big orange, round basketball-looking guys.
Bumpy gourds have been around for quite a while, since we first began harvesting them around 8,000 years ago. And we’ve been breeding them for desired characteristics for nearly as long, whether those characteristics were tougher skins to make it through dreary winters, disease-resistant varieties after a particular plague, or just a squishy squash with a better taste. Now, they’re bred for bumps, too.
So we know we like the bumps (they give our gourds a certain quirkiness), but what exactly are they? Do we have fungus-infected veggies adorning our doorways? What has gotten into all the squashes? If your gourd is a little lumpy to the touch, there are three possible factors that might be responsible.
Like we mentioned earlier, farmers have been intentionally breeding bumpy gourds for decades, and they’ve jumped on the bandwagon in bigger numbers than ever before in recent years. Sometimes good looks are just in the genes.
It’s definitely possible that your squash has contracted a nefarious disease that’s leaving it scarred and uneven. Mosaic virus is the most likely culprit, passed along by tiny bugs called aphids that are feeding on the plant’s sappy leaves. But don’t worry, it’s nothing too dangerous. (In other words, if the bumps are affecting your pumpkins or squashes, they’re still totally edible, just maybe a bit less delicious.)
Basically your gourd has absorbed too much water during wet growing years, and decided to create a little extra storage space. This usually happens when the plant needs to get rid of the excess hydration, but cooler weather doesn’t let it lift off through the leaves or develop into flowers or fruits. The plant’s cells get swollen with extra water and burst, creating a pocket that heals, scars, and leaves a dry, corky bump on the surface.