September 19, 2009

1 - Gourds may be edible, but often not tasty. Be sure you know what you are eating.

Yard and Garden September 19, 2009


A lady brought in pictures of a snake gourd plant that she planted. Apparently she planted seeds from a packet, and then lost the packet. She wants to eat the gourds, but is unsure if she should, or if they are even good to eat. Can you shed any light on the subject?

- S.B.



Without the information on the packet, it is risky to eat the gourds. Is it possible for her to go find another packet of the same gourds (exactly the same)? If the packet says the gourds are edible, then she can eat them. Without other information, I am very hesitant to say she can.

Generally, gourds are edible, but often very bitter tasting. In some countries gourds are a common part of the food supply, but the people in those countries have learned to enjoy the flavor and the best ways to prepare them. Gourds should be eaten when the fruits are small and tender, before the seeds mature and the shell starts becoming woody. The flesh of gourds is much thinner and much less sweet than squash and pumpkin. There are some gourds that are tastier than others; proper identification helps to know which. That is why the label is so important.

There are few things commonly grown and sold that look like gourds, but nevertheless, it is wise not to eat things unless you have positive knowledge as to what they are. A friend once said, As to plants, you can eat pretty much any of them, but some of them will kill you if you do! This is good advice. Know what you are eating.

2 - Now is the time to plant spring-flowering bulbs


Can I plant bulbs now?

- K.K.



Yes, it is finally time to begin planting spring flowering bulbs. If you can find them in the stores, or if you have some that you dug up last spring and want to replant, now and for the next couple of months is a good time to plant them. For people with the best of intentions, but little time, if you cannot get them in the ground by the end of October, you can still plant them as long as can work the soil. If you wait until after Christmas, the chance for the bulbs to produce blossoms is reduced, but the bulbs will survive better if they are in the soil. If you try to store them for another year, the bulbs will dry out and die.

When planting, prepare the soil well by adding compost, a fertilizer with high levels of phosphate (second number on the package) or an exclusively phosphate fertilizer (only phosphate). Loosen the soil well and deeply. Plant the bulbs according to their needs. Some smaller bulbs (crocus and grape hyacinth) need to be planted only about 2 to 3 inches deep, but some larger bulbs (tulips and daffodils) prefer being planted 4 to 6 inches deep. This is the measurement to the bottom of the bulb.

Since bulbs are most active underground in the cold season, producing roots, it is important to maintain some moisture in the soil where the bulbs are planted. Since the weather is cool or cold at this season, the evaporation of water is reduced; they do not need to be watered as often as summer flowers. They need increased moisture in late winter as the leaves and flower scapes are produced, but this is also a time of low evaporation. During the summer when evaporation is greatest, these plants are dormant and need relatively little water. For this reason, spring flowering bulbs are efficient water users and are good plants for a xeriscape.

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email:, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms.

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