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Sand Blazing Star

(Mentzelia involucrata)

Sand Blazing Star is a species of Mentzelia native to the Mojave and Sonoran deserts of North America. Its common names include kuʼu, sand blazing star and white-bract blazing star. Mentzelia seeds have been identified as a staple food source for Native American tribes of the Great Basin. In an ethnobotanical study of the Kawaiisu people, Zigmond (1981) noted that Mentzelia (kuʼu) was mentioned whenever his informants were asked to list important foods, and its gathering appeared frequently in mythology. The seeds were gathered in June after flowers lost their petals, and used immediately or stored. They were parched with hot coals, then ground on a metate; the resulting food had a peanut butter-like consistency. Zigmond also claimed that clay pots were filled with Mentzelia seeds before firing, but others have questioned whether this would be possible without destroying the pots through heat shock.