Food Plants

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Food Plants

A very basic list of the Food Plants important to our ancestors in the Old West.
Additions may be expected from time to time… Doc


Amaranthus flowers - Food PlantsAmaranth - Food PlantsAmaranth – (Efedraceae Amaranthus var.) Amaranth’s large seedheads grow very rapidly and its seeds/grains are a good source of protein; always welcome in the protein poor Southwest. Raw amaranth grain is inedible to humans and cannot be digested, it has to be prepared and cooked much like other grains. However, it has some issues with toxic anti-nutritional components, not all of which are reduced by various cooking methods. High in the amino acid lysine, compared to low quantities present in other grains; it is deficient in essential amino acids such as leucine and threonine. Amaranth is gluten free. The weed was harvested and cultivated by the Pueblo Indians of the Southwest. Photos: U.S. PD; LH amaranth seeds; RH 2014 Hardyplants, amaranth flowers.  {001}
see also:
The Originals Index – Resources & Hazards – Plants – Functional PlantsAmaranth)

Painted Pony Bean - Food Plants

Painted Pony Bean
(Phaseolus vulgaris)

Beans Phaseolus vulgaris - Food Plants

Phaseolus vulgaris varieties

Beans – (Phaseolus). Pre-Columbian peoples had domesticated five kinds of Phaseolus beans well before the coming of the Europeans: common beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) which includes pinto, kidney, black beans, green beans and many others); lima beans (Phaseolus lunatus); scarlet runner beans (Phaseolus coccineus): as well as the less common white tepary bean (Phaseolus acutifolius) and polyanthus beans (Phaseolus polyanthus), only recognized as a separate species in 1995. Native Americans customarily grew them all along with corn and squash as the “Three Sisters” with the corn in a checkerboard pattern across a field, in separate groups of up to five or six stalks, the cornstalks would then act as support for the climbing beans. Squash was planted in between as a ground cover and as some physical protection from various predators for the corn & beans. The Corn and squash came first, the beans came along around 500 to 750 A.D. Photos: U.S. PD: Varieties, USDA 2005; Painted Pony, Travis K. Witt 2011.  {001}
see also:
Three Sisters – below



Current Plant - Food PlantsCurrent Berries - Food PlantsCurrent Berry – Photos: U.S. PD internet




Service Berry fruit - Food PlantsService Berry - Food PlantsService Berry – Photos: U.S. PD internet




Raspberry fruits - wild - Food PlantsRaspbery Plant wild - Food PlantsWild Raspberry – Photos: U.S. PD internet




Strawberry Plants wild - Food PlantsStrawberries wild - Food PlantsWild Strawberry – Photos: U.S. PD internet





Camas Camassia-quamash - Food Plants

Camas (Camassia quamash)

Camas – (Camassia quamash). Aka: prairie turnip, tipsinah. An edible and nutritious perennial plant which can fill moist meadows; emerging early in the spring and growing to a height of from 12 to 50 inches (30 to 127 cm). The multi-flowered stem, rising above the main plant in summer, will sport six-petaled flowers which can color entire meadows with hues from white to pale lilac thru deep purple or blue-violet.
The quamash was a food source for many native peoples in the western U. S. and Canada . Harvested in the autumn, after the flowers have withered; the bulbs were boiled or pit-roasted. A roasted camas bulb looks and tastes akin to a baked sweet potato, sweeter, but containing more crystalline fibers due to the presence of inulin. Dried bulbs, pounded to flour kept well.
In addition to the ingestion of the fibers (not a large hazard), there is one other caveat with camas. The white-flowered deathcamas species (not Camassia but Melanthieae), which are toxic, grow in the same areas and the bulbs are quite similar. It is easiest to tell the plants apart when they are in flower, but as noted above, that is not when they were harvested.
Tribes who harvested camas include: the Blackfoot, Cree, Coast Salish, Nez Perce, Lummi and numerous others. Contemporary reports indicate that camas bulbs contributed to the survival of the Lewis and Clark Expedition*. Early white settlers who also learned to consume it, were dubbed “camas eaters”. As white settlement expanded in the Great Basin, they saw camas not as a food source, but as animal feed. Cattle and hogs turned onto camas prairies greatly reduced a major food source which the tribes depended on as a staple, greatly increasing the tension with settlers and travelers. This is much the same problem that arose over skunk cabbage**. Numerous locations in the Northwest named for camas, reflect its importance in the Old West. Photo: U.S. P.D. 2004 USDA William & Wilma Follette.  {001}
see also:
*Wk. 19, 05/13/1804)
**(see: The Originals – Resources & Hazards – Plants
Functional Plants & Hazardous Plants Skunk Cabbage


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