Coyote Melon – Cucurbita Palmata

Coyote melon is known by its scientific name Cucurbita palmata and a host of other common names, including the coyote gourd, coyote ear, buffalo gourd, stinking melon, calabazilla, or chilicote. It was first identified by Sereno Watson in 1876. They grow in the Mojave Desert and other areas of the southwest and northwestern Mexico, along the edge of washes and over rocks and shrubs. Thriving during the desert’s summer monsoon season, the plant features a sprawling vine with rough, stiff-haired stems and dark green, light-veined palmate triangular pointed five fingered leaves with grasping tendrils, producing large and stiff orange-yellow trumpet shaped flowers two-and-a-half to three inches wide and then a striped green fruit, roughly three-and-a-half to four inches wide which ages to yellow when ripe.
As appetizing as the coyote melon looks, its flesh is extremely bitter. This pulp, which is the placental attachment for the seeds contains cucurbitacins, which rank as the most bitter substances ever encountered. The seeds, however, are highly nutritious and can be eaten, but only after being thoroughly cleaned of the pulp and roasted. if any pulp clings to the seeds, they will be inedible, even if roasted. The pulp in any form acts as an emetic if swallowed, as the human digestive tract finds it so offensive that it almost convulsively pass the cucurbitacins out, either up or down, absolutely cleansing the digestive tract.
Despite the human aversion for the pulp of this squash, some animals have an affinity for the seeds and will put up with the bitter taste of the pulp to get to them. Coyotes in particular will eat them. Thus the name for these melons.
In prehistory, apparently, the coyote melon had its fans. In The Ghosts of Evolution, Connie Barlow states that Mastodons ate them. Rhinoceroses, which will tolerate very bitter foods, will eat them.
Because the coyote melon hybridizes readily, it presents a threat to other types of edible gourds and squash. As every type of squash depend upon bees which feed upon the nectar of their flowers for the transference of pollen from male to female flowers, the coyote melon pollen sometimes is planted on the female flowers of edible squashes. The offspring of such a match carries a bitter taste.
The coyote melon does well in hot, arid regions with low rainfall, preferring soil that is loose, gravelly and well-drained.

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