RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Put down that spiced pumpkin latte you're sipping and douse that pumpkin-scented candle you might be burning. Pumpkins are so passe. Gourds are the newest designer accessory. We asked NPR's Vanessa Rancano to dig into the world of ornamental gourds.
VANESSA RANCANO, BYLINE: With stripes and curves and warts and all, gourds are big, even the small ones.
ADAM PYLE: We have a huge demand for squash and gourds that are aesthetically interesting and different from each other. That's been popular for a while, and it's been really trendy the last few years.
RANCANO: That's Adam Pyle, a horticulturalist at the United States Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C. And though the interest in them may be new, the plants aren't. They're ancient. Pyle says there's evidence people have been breeding them for almost 8,000 years. There are hundreds of varieties. We tend to call the edible one, squash, the inedible, gourds. And pumpkins, they're just a kind of squash.
At a produce auction in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, buyers come from as far as a hundred miles away for the selection of colorful pumpkins and gourds. Virginia Davis is looking to stock her roadside produce stand. She eyes the one she wants.
VIRGINIA DAVIS: People around here call it a Fairytale pumpkin 'cause it kind of looks like a Cinderella carriage pumpkin.
RANCANO: Davis spends $1,800 at the auction. She sells 85 different kinds of pumpkins and gourds at her stand. Her customers demand variety. They aren't alone. The amount of American farmland devoted to pumpkins is three times what it was 30 years ago. And most of them aren't filling pies but cornucopias.
Karen Alston has a sleek, modern home in Washington, D.C. She's enlisted event planner Sugar Taylor to craft an edgy fall centerpiece for a big dinner party. Taylor is filling a hollowed-out white pumpkin with hot pink flowers and greenery and spray painting a couple of the little gourds gold.
SUGAR TAYLOR: Hey, like it?
RANCANO: Alston loves the arrangement.
KAREN ALSTON: It's absolutely beautiful. It's stunning. When you think of fall, you think of pumpkin and gourds and all these beautiful colors. And I just think it adds to the beauty of the season. And this is just going to be such a beautiful centerpiece on this table.
RANCANO: As the days narrow and the world turns gray and white, those piles of gourds offer a visual feast. Vanessa Rancano, NPR News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.