Monthly Archives: July 2014

Foraging Class at Strawberry Canyon

I just finished teaching another foraging class, the third one so far. I host them in the SF Bay Area (usually the East Bay Hills) through meetup.com (Bay Area Foragers). This one was at Strawberry Canyon by UC Berkeley. If you’re in the Bay Area, please join us next time!

Leading the Bay Area Foragers class at Strawberry Canyon

Leading the Bay Area Foragers class at Strawberry Canyon

Here is the list of species (common / scientific names) we saw and discussed uses for on today’s walk. It’s just from memory so I may have forgotten a few things.

Plants:

hazelnut / Corylus cornuta
California bay laurel / Umbellularia californica
buckeye / Aesculus californica
horsetail / Equisetum sp.
storksbill / Epilobium sp.
yellow curly dock / Rumex crispus
madrone / Arbutus menzeisii
blackberry / Rubus ursinus, R. armeniacus
thimbleberry / Rubus parviflorus
toyon / Heteromeles arbutifolia
mustards / Brassica sp.
thistle / Cirsium sp.
coast live oak / Quercus agrifolia
teasel / Dipsacus sp.
cherry plum / Prunus cerasifera
stream orchid / Epipactis gigantea
bracken fern / Pteridium aquilinum
sword fern / Polystichum munitum
incense cedar / Calocedrus decurrens
stinging nettle / Urtica dioica
redwood / Sequioa sempervirens
blue elderberry / Sambucus nigra ssp. caerulea
grasses / Poaceae
mugwort / Artemesia douglasiana
monkeyflower / Mimulus auranticus
cleavers / Galium sp.
ocean spray / Holodiscus discolor
Willow / Salix sp.
Coffeeberry / Rhamnus californica
Plantain / Plantago sp.
Poison oak / Toxicodendron diversilobium

Animals:
Honeydew
European honeybee (and native bees)
Sphinx moth caterpillar

The Make and Use of Redwood Canoes by the Yurok Tribe

Fallen redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) logs were hollowed with fire to form canoes by Pacific coast Indians of northwestern California (e.g. Yurok) that were sold to other tribes (Powers 1877, Chesnut 1902). Redwood trunks for canoes were gathered by the Yurok from the bar across the mouth of the Lower Klamath, or all along the coast where redwoods grow (Powers 1877). Redwood (and it’s relatives such as bald cypress) is known for having insect-repellant wood. It is also quite soft and easy to carve.

They were burned by the Yurok to suitable lengths, (one made in 1968 was 18 ft long x 3.5 ft wide x 1.5 ft deep) and the ends kept blunt rather than pointed (Powers 1877). To burn them into shape, pitch was spread on the area of wood to be burned, and when it was burned sufficiently deep, a piece of raw bark was clapped upon the burning area to extinguish it (Powers 1877). By this method, and with scraping and polishing with stones, the sides and ends were reduced to be very thin and smooth, with appreciable symmetry and elegance (Powers 1877). At the stern, a small, neat bracket was burned and polished out to serve as a seat (Powers 1877). Before metal tools, this work was completed by two Indians in five or six months (Powers 1877).

Yurok man paddling traditional redwood canoe. Photo credit: http://www.firstpeople.us/canoe/yurok-in-the-shadow.html

Yurok man paddling traditional redwood canoe. Photo credit: http://www.firstpeople.us/canoe/yurok-in-the-shadow.html

Such a canoe could carry five tons (Powers 1877). They were used for shooting dangerous rapids and surf, in sea during stormy weather, and regularly traveling the 44 mile round-trip from the Yurok village to Crescent City to bring back merchandise (Powers 1877). For collecting shellfish, they were used to go to small offshore islands a mile distant, upon which they jumped from their canoes despite dangerous rocks and surf (Powers 1877).

 

 

To keep the canoes from cracking in the sun, when not in use, they were turned upside down on the sandy beach and their bottoms were cleared of adhering barnacles, seaweed, and other matter by singing with burning reeds or bundles of sticks to loosen the pitch and scrape off the matter, i.e., they were breamed (Powers 1877). Or they were hauled into damp and shady coves, or thickly covered with leaves and brushwood (Powers 1877). If they become cracked, holes were bored through the wood on both sides next to the crack with a deer antler, and withes were passed through these holes, being tightened by twisting them with sticks (like a tourniquet), closing the cracks better than caulking (Powers 1877).

They are still made by the Yurok in our age, mainly for ceremonial use and display, but sometimes for regular use. One is on display at the Thomas H. Kuchel visitor center at Redwood National Park. See this Redwood National Park handout for a little more info: http://www.nps.gov/redw/planyourvisit/upload/yurok%20canoe.pdf

Modern Yurok making traditional redwood canoe. Photo credit: http://www.sfgate.com/magazine/article/Battling-Upstream-3288175.php#photo-2436580

Modern Yurok making traditional redwood canoe. Photo credit: http://www.sfgate.com/magazine/article/Battling-Upstream-3288175.php#photo-2436580

REFERENCES

Chesnut, V. K. 1902. Plants used by the Indians of Mendocino County, California. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC.

Powers, S. 1877. Tribes of California. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC.

Grasshopper Hunting Methods of American Indians

Most American Indians ate grasshoppers (plus crickets and katydids: the orthoptera) as an integral part of their diet, collecting vast quantities in the summer, drying them and grinding them into flour to store for the winter.

They had many methods of gathering and trapping grasshoppers. The most simple gathering method was to merely pick them off vegetation during the early morning, when it was too cool for them to fly or jump off quickly.

At the most complex end of the spectrum, entire villages assembled to prepare pits and perform circle or or group drive hunts, surrounding a field and scaring grasshoppers inward simultaneously to drive the grasshoppers into the central pits. There were many variations on this method, from some Indians using fire to either drive the grasshoppers or kill them at the end, to driving them in a line towards a creek, where they were collected downstream in basket traps.

See Cricket Hunting Method of Nevada Indians for another example of a drive hunt.

One basic type of the circle hunt method was performed by the Shoshone Indians of the Western US (including California, Nevada, Idaho, and Wyoming): A hole was dug in the center of a field, 10-12 ft deep by 4-5 ft diameter. The 4-5 acre field was surrounded with people standing about twenty feet apart, armed with long branches of Artemisia (i.e. wormwood; a pungent, insect-repelling herb/shrub), with which they beat the ground and vegetation while slowly pushing them towards the hole in the center (Chittenden and Richardson 1905). Often 3-4 acres was sufficient to fill the hole. (Chittenden and Richardson 1905).

Circle drive hunt method of Shoshone Indians to trap vast amounts of grasshoppers for food. Illustration by C. Harp.

Circle drive hunt method of Shoshone Indians to trap vast amounts of grasshoppers for food. Illustration by C. Harp.

REFERENCE

Chittenden, H.M. and A.D. Richardson. 1905. Life, letters and travels of Father Pierre-Jean DeSmet, S.J., 1801-1873. Harper, New York, NY.

Insect Diet Helped Early Humans Build Bigger Brains, Study Suggests

A recent study supports the idea that extracting hidden insects such as termites and ants to eat by capuchins and other primates such as humans (who have a long history of entomophagy), especially during seasons where other foods are less available, has led to adaptations in parts of the brain, causing increased manual dexterity, tool use, and innovative problem solving among entomophagous primates.

Original article: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S004724841400044X

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7 Insects You’ll Be Eating in the Future

Click the title for a Livescience.com article about a few popular insects eaten around the world, and their important potential as a more ubiquitous food source in the future given the global food (esp. protein) shortage crises.

Some students from McGill University in Canada won the 2013 Hult prize, providing $1,000,000 in seed money for their project making protein-rich flour from insects, starting with grasshoppers (yes, 1 million bucks for bugs).