Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Native Californians' use of plants

My blog has been UC Davis arboretum heavy lately, so I was going to save this post for later, but it seems somewhat appropriate for Thanksgiving. Since most of our traditional foods on Thanksgiving were first eaten by the indigenous peoples of what is now the United States, it might be interesting to think about what the indigenous Californians ate and in some cases still do eat. Disclaimer - there were hundreds of groups/villages/tribes here in California and obviously this information will only apply to some of them. And more important disclaimer, don't eat things you can't identify with certainty as both the plant you are looking for and as something edible.

I went on a guided walk of the arboretum talking about Native California uses of plants. Pretty interesting. And in answer to the question what did they eat, well for many the staple was acorns. I've been curious to try them now for a while, but they seem fairly labor intensive to prepare.

Toyon berries - They're supposedly edible raw, but evidently branches were cut off the plant, the leaves stripped, and the berries roasted over an open fire. One of the guides said it was probably an aquired taste.

Manzanita berries were mashed, then water added to make a refreshing drink. Several on the walk said it was good. And the hips from the native rose were used to make tea. (pic of rosehip, a little dry)

Some of the most interesting uses of plants were not about food, but more on that after the jump.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The variety of Oaks - As seen thru their Leaves

More leaves with species names after the jump.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Architecture of Oaks

Blue Oak (Quercus Douglasii)

Oaks are some of my favorite trees. They have the most incredible shapes, tall and stately, their gnarled, twisting branches spreading out in all directions to make a nice shaded refuge underneath.

All oaks pictured are in the Shields Oak Grove at the UC Davis Arboretum.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Sonoma Coast

Two weekends ago, I went camping on the Sonoma Coast, about 15 miles north of Jenner. It's a really beautiful section of Highway 1 and we had a great time.

Some strange wildlife in the camp.

The rainstorm of early October and the warm weather after led to a mini spring. There were mushrooms everywhere. I believe these are shaggy ink wells in two different stages of maturity.

Could these be the world's tiniest mushrooms? Probably not, but definitely the smallest I've ever seen.

A pic of the coast and our hand model, Carlos.