Tuesday, January 29, 2013

native foods

Taken from Native foods from Stone circle farm .com

Native Foods

By Rita Bober
When I began adding native plants, shrubs and trees to our homestead and identifying edible and medicinal plants while studying herbalism, I wondered what Native People from the Midwest ate when they were the sole inhabitants of this region. This article will share some of my findings on Native food.
The Anishinabe People first lived on the shores of the "Great Salt Water in the East." Prophets came to the People and told them that to survive, they must move west. As they traveled west, they would know where to settle when they found "the food that grows on water." So when they reached the Great Lakes area, they did find "the food that grows on water" — Mano'min or wild rice1. Since that time, wild rice has been one of the main foods of the Anishinabe People especially the Ojibway.
Another important food of this area is the sap from Ninautig, the Maple tree. At one time, all the maple syrup in North America was produced by Native people. Sap was also gathered from birch, poplar, and basswood trees.
Native people of the Great Lakes area were hunters and gatherers. They survived on what they could find in the woods and lakes around them. They ate according to the seasons. To the People, all this was given to them by the Great Spirit and their lifestyle reflected a gratitude for all of life's bounty.
Their diet included meat or fish, when it was available. This was supplemented with greens, herbs, berries, and roots. In an unpublished paper, Grandmother Keewaydinoquay2, an Ojibway Elder, listed the unique foods that had been used in earlier times. Meat included: venison, porcupine, goose, wild turkey, partridge, quail, pigeon, buffalo, elk, bear, rabbit, squirrel, beaver, groundhog, muskrat, raccoon, turtle, bull frogs, and ducks.
Fish included: trout, smelt, whitefish, pickerel, bass, fish eggs, salmon, catfish, perch, carp, muskie, pike and more. Grandmother had been raised in a traditional Native family but was also trained in the Western tradition as an ethno-botanist and was familiar with many local plants.
She stated that the People gathered a variety of foods from the woods, fields, and lakes to supplement their meals. These included: cattails, wild leeks and onions, wild greens, mushrooms, rose hips, sumac, water lily, wild cranberries, cactus, wild cucumber, nettles, serviceberry, raspberries, wild crabapples, elderberries, blackberries, blueberries, wild cherry as well as nuts — acorn, chestnuts, walnuts, hazelnuts and hickory.
Along with meat, wild rice, maple syrup and eggs gathered from bird nests, they enjoyed a great variety of foods. Native people did not have dairy products such as butter, milk, or cream but they did have a variety of fats including animal fats, particularly bear, and nut oils from acorns, beechnuts, butternuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, and black walnuts. Traditional calcium and mineral sources included eating whole fish, making bone soup or broths and eating greens. Babies were breast fed for several years.
Frances Densmore, an ethnologist, detailed the uses of nearly 200 plants in her book about the Chippewa Indians (another word for Ojibway) How Indians Use Wild Plants for Food, Medicine & Crafts. Along with the items listed above, Densmore included: juneberry, bearberry, wild ginger, common milkweed, aster, creeping snowberry, wild bean or hog peanut, wintergreen, Jerusalem artichoke, mountain mint, Labrador tea, bugleweed, chokecherry, bur oak acorns, red and wild currant, arrowhead, bulrush, basswood bark, hemlock leaves, and wild grapes.
Carolyn Raine of Seneca heritage wrote about historical references to Native foods in her book, A Woodland Feast: Native American Foodways of the 17th & 18th Centuries. Her book is based on primary source documentation, from over one hundred original 17th and 18th century journals, captivity narratives, and ethno-botanical research.
Additional foods to consider include: skunk, snake, otter, tree bark, rendered tallow, sturgeon, gull's eggs, swans, organ meats and blood, broths of dried frogs and beaver tails. The general rule for any meal was to cook some meat in a large pot and whatever greens, roots, nuts or berries were in season. Plants and animals were honored and all parts were used either for food, clothing or utensils. Raine describes methods of food preparation and cooking including roasting, boiling, drying, as well as making soups and stews. Today, many Native foods are still available. You can gather meat by hunting and fishing or you can raise buffalo, turkey, rabbits, ducks, and quail yourself. Many of the green plants Natives used are still growing today. You can grow many of these plants in your own yard. It is commonly thought that edible plants like lamb's quarters, purslane, chickweed, red clover, and sheep's sorrel are native but they were brought here by European settlers.
Native people of the Midwest acquired seeds of pumpkin, corn, beans and squash from Mexico and South America which they often grew in round gardens. Europeans referred to "corn" as grain while Natives called "corn" maize. Maize came in many varieties. They included a soft variety known as bread maize, an 8-rowed flint, dent, and even popcorn. They came in many colors: white, yellow, red, black, purple or blue, and calico or multi-colored. The Grandmothers had many ways to cook or use maize. It was boiled, roasted, dried, parched, pounded into meal, and boiled with wood ashes to make hominy.
Natives used maize or hominy, fresh or dried, for bread. Pounded meal was mixed with water, and this was made into small cakes that were either baked in hot ashes (ash cakes) or dropped into boiling water, soup or stew to make boiled maize bread or dumplings.
Many varieties of beans were also brought up from the south. Both shelled and edible pod varieties such as cranberry, navy, arrow, "snap" or "string" as well as several types of kidney beans were grown. The beans were usually boiled with meat or vegetables and were also mixed with cornmeal to make cakes and dumplings. They were often dried so they could be stored and used during the winter.
Different varieties of squash and pumpkins were also grown in the gardens. The Grandmothers would boil, bake or roast them near the fire, and dried them for use in winter. Although maize (corn), beans, and squash were not native to this area, they were grown here before European explorers arrived.
If you are interested in growing some of the foods that the Native People ate, first check around your area. You will often find sites that have black elderberry and blackberry bushes. Trees to look for include sugar maple, black walnut, wild black cherry, mulberry, and white oak. Each of these has "a gift" to share with you. If you live by water, you may find cattails and water lilies. In the woods, violets, mature Mayapples, ramps (wild leeks); and in your fields, there may be Jerusalem artichokes and milkweed plants. There are even plants that grow in our native prairie's that are edible. For example, you can make tea with the leaves from monarda, mountain mint, and New Jersey tea.
Check out the resources below for more ideas. Many of the fruits and greens that we grow in our gardens today are variations of those that were used by Indigenous people. Eating things that grow in the wild, could save you money. Just make sure they have not been sprayed or are close to the road where salt and car emissions have polluted them.
Native seeds for maize, dry beans and squashes can be found through Seed Savers Exchange. There are too many people today for all of us to eat "wild" food all the time, so growing some of them in our "wild" places or in our gardens is a great idea.
Native People lived for years off what they harvested in the wild and were very strong and healthy. Perhaps it is time for us to consider including "native wild foods" into our everyday cuisine. Be sure to thank the plant for its gift and save some for the next generation.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

I'm officially addicted, I knew it !!

Yup, I thought one tree order would do it, nope I was wrong.

I just sent out a second tree/plant order, yes I'll admit I'm addicted to trees.

I saw a great buy on some more peach trees (yes I had already ordered two, and Elberta and a Reliance), but these were some I had before the fire, a Hale Haven and a Red Haven, so I couldn't resist. They also had a grab bag of 25 strawberry plants, which I needed and a great buy on Hardy Kiwi so I ordered 1 male and 4 female of those too.

Yes I know, I'm bad.

But when there is still room to plant perennial fruits and veggies what is a gal to do !

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Thinking back over the hurricanes...sustainability thoughts

When the superstorm Hurricane Sandy hit the East coast it really made a mess, some people still have no homes and no electricity ..months later. So now the subject comes up of sustainability.

Sure we all consume things year around that we wouldn't have if we were hit by a similar tragedy..and we could do without them quite eaisly should tragedy strike, like this computer, my paid t v, cell phones, etc.

But I'm thinking more about actually being able to survive, live, without the government stepping in to do things for us, no FEMA, Red Cross, Salvation Army, etc.

I'm thinking that this year I would like to become a little more able to sustain LIFE should something serious happen here. No not preppers or survivalists, but just able to sustain LIFE.

The things we NEED (not want) are shelter, food, heat in Michigan, water and in some cases medical equipment or supplies.

Shelter is a given as long as our home is intact (and we do have good insurance as we did lose a home to a housefire in 2002). We also have camping equipment and tents if we had to use them and live next door to our son so if one of us lost a home the other could provide.

Heat here in Michigan is very important. We have a new outdoor wood boiler and an indoor wood fired fireplace, both have electric fans and outdoor one has electric pump. The indoor wood fireplace would heat the house somewhat without the fan, but much better with the fan. However, we purchased a propane generator a couple years ago and when we had a prolonged power outage last March it was quite useful in running fans, refrigeration, pumps, etc. We have about a year's supply of propane at any time as well as a couple small back up tanks and our propane barbeque grill and propane camp stove. We have a large woodshed and always have about 2 years of firewood put up in the fall ahead, so we could get along for a while with that and have chainsaws so we can cut some as long as there is fuel for them.

I also have durable medical equipment that we use with our generator when we have to, when power goes out.

Water, well as I said we have the generator that will move the pumps, but we also have access to a flowing well in an emergency and creeks within walking distance of our house as well, so water isn't too much of a problem, more an inconvenience if we had to haul it.

Food, this is an area where I'm falling short. I have planted serious food forest gardens, but because we lost most of them in our housefire of 2002 ..many of our fruit trees and nut trees are very young. This year we are hoping to have a lot more of a harvest off of our fruit and nut trees and our berry bushes and grapevines, but last year was a disaster with our frosts and droughts. I really need to work on the food side of sustainability here. I have a canner and a small pressure cooker and water bath canner, and supplies, but I would love to buy a NEW canner this year and a lot more supplies. I also have a dehydrater and drying racks as well, so drying is something I do quite a bit of each year. I have 2 separate freezers from my refrigerator, but keeping those going with the generator would be a tad more difficult if it was prolonged need..but if it was I could remove the food and can it, cook it or dry it before running out of propane.

I have planted a lot of foods that can easily be eaten that are perennial in our area, and we have a lot of forage options that non foragers wouldn't recognize as food, like edible tree leaves and flower garden plant roots and flowers, etc..so this knowledge would save our lives in a food shortage situation.

Meat, well that is another situation that might be a problem as at this time we have no domestice animals other than 2 cats (who would bring us songbirds and mice, yuk)..but we have a lot of wildlife in our area which we do feed and we have ability to hunt and process those. I hope to get myself a flock of chickens in the spring and get a chicken house and run built, and am also thinking of putting a few ducks on my pond. This year we are trying a "bubbler" to keep the pond open in the winter, which is working, but does require electricity to run. This said, we can plant fish in the pond with the bubbler going that would be edible as well..so that is a plan for spring, stocking the pond with fish.

There are a lot of deer and rabbits and squirrels and other wildlife that is edible in our area and even game birds like turkey, pheasant, doves, etc. So as long as we are able to harvest them we will have meat but I do believe this is an area I need to plan better for in the future.

Fuel for vehicles and tractor is one thing that we might fall short of also, but we have bicycles and I enjoy walking, so access to transportation in the nice weather isn't a problem, I don't ski so some snowshoes might be a good investment in the future as well.

I'm sure that additions of some solar cells with batteries or a wind generator would be a good investment, which we have been considering but haven't had the $ to buy the equipment yet, and we are planning on putting in an outside access water well, hopefully will hit a flowing well, in the next two years which we  believe would be a good investment for our future.

I hope this has given you some ideas of what you might need to do if a Hurricane Sandy, or earthquake, or tornado, or housefire, or SHTF episode happens, or even for a zombi apocolypse hits..at least it has gotten me thinking a little more about the future in 2013..Happy New Year