Cedar Valley coming back from July fire

by Sue Hokanson, Quartz Mountain Nature Park

September 17, 2013

Cedar Valley is really coming back from the fire it suffered July 13. Some of the first plants to sprout were the mesquites. The first week after the fire there were tiny 1 and 2 inch tall mesquite trees all over. No longer! The deer have been eating them as fast as they grow. If this keeps up, the mesquites will be kept in check.

Two other trees are sending up shoots from their roots and trunks. Both the Netleaf Hackberry and the Little Walnut have thousands of small suckers popping up. Most are about 12 to 18 inches tall already. Which means they aren’t as tasty as the mesquite seedlings, or they would also be eaten. Both of these trees will provide plenty of food for wildlife in years to come from the berries and nuts they will produce.

Another plant that is thriving in the burnt area is the Buffalo Gourd. This plant has other less pleasant names like “coyote melon”, “fetid gourd” and “stinking guard”. Bruise either the stems or leaves and you will know why they’re called stinking gourds. The gourds “look” like little watermelons but they are said to taste nasty. “Very bitter”, “fetid” and “foul” are common descriptions of the taste.

However, those same books state the seeds of this gourd have been a food source for thousands of years. Native Peoples would dry the gourds, remove and wash the seeds then roast the seeds. Nutritional analysis has the seeds at as much as 35% protein and 43% oil. Research is ongoing on the potential as a commercial cooking and salad oil. The roots can be up to 56% starch by dry weight and starches can be used to produce sugars for foods, beverages and fermentation.

Buffalo gourd is also be researched for its potential to be grown as an agricultural crop. All of this potential, from something that is also known as the “stinking gourd”-they need to find a better name if the want to produce foods and beverages from this plant.