Calabazilla aka Buffalo Gourd is native to my neighborhood. While running errands today, I grabbed a fresh gourd.
It is a round squash, now drying out. I broke it open so you can see the seeds. It looks a lot like a loofah. First Americans used it for bathing because it has saponins. So does the up to 150 pound root.
When young, the squash can be eaten, but gets bitter as it ages. Still, the seeds are 31 percent protein and up to 50 percent edible oil, around half of which is linoleic acid, an essential oil for health.
This is a huge plant, with up to 20 foot vines. I am talking 20 feet in every direction. Livestock eat it, and I see it along the roads just outside fences and out of reach. The vines all died back but they will resprout soon. The ease of collecting the gourds is wonderful, because when leafed out it looks like a snake pit. Right now, with all the vines dead, and the gourds resting in the open, it easy to harvest. I believe this is my first food source because it presents as a high protein seed in late winter, before any other plants have started growing.
The root is a sweetener, stabilizer, or used like tapioca for pudding. It is being studied as a potential biofuel. Dried, it is about half starch, 75 pounds or so per mature plant.
It likes sowing in early to mid spring, and should germinate in about 2 weeks. I will start a few in pots and sow the rest outside.
I am most excited about this as an oil plant. In the last 3 years, these have been very reliable producers and I sure would like to collect them from the fencelines! Discretion being the better part of valor, I took one gourd and had a soft conversation with two really large dogs that charged the fence. They came ferocious, but stopped to listen to the soft talk, and we parted friends.
I hope I get plants! I collected last fall, but this is the better time of year.
What could be better for my food forest? If I get these started, I will have: summer squash, high protein seeds, an essential oil, livestock feed, biofuel, pudding mix, shampoo, stain remover, and used properly, a gentle dewormer. Even loofahs, presoaped.
I think folks used to make quite a self-sufficient lifestyle out of this beautiful bluegreen vine with big orange edible flowers.