Native Plants as food — Gisela Rohde

Self-taught naturalist Gisela Rohde discusses ethnobotany as described to ethnographers in the late 1800s and early 1900s by native people in Humboldt County.  Two separate interviews discuss Berries and Bulbs; Seeds, Nuts and Acorns; and, Greens, Plants as Seasoning, and plants used as cooking tools.  To Listen to this 2-part interview with Gisela:

 Part 1

Part 2

Berries include Bearberry —

and Thimbleberry — whose large leaves were used to separate salmon filets in a similar way that we use waxed paper today.










 Chlorogalum Kunth – soapplant

©Mark W. Skinner. United States, CA, Tuolumne Co., Red Hills. April 17, 1990.Any use of copyrighted images requires notification of the copyright holder.

Bulbs include the fantastic soap plant that could be eaten, used for it’s sudsing and cleaning power, and after roasting a brush could be made out of the inedible part for cleaning (it looks like a shaving brush)

Pussy ears (Calochortus tolmiei) The bulbs were eaten by many native people:

Rosy firecracker flower (Dicherlostemma ida-maia x congestum) is another bulb that was harvested by many native people.

One of the most important food for many native people in Humboldt County was the acorn.  While the tan oak plant really isn’t an oak — the seed was ground into a flour that many people thought was the very best of all the acorn meals.

Lithocarpus densiflorus (Hook. & Arn.) Rehder


1 Comment

  1. Sarah said,

    March 6, 2012 at 8:50 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this information! I go to Humboldt State University and I’m a Future Teacher Intern at the Natural History Museum. My current assignment is making a weekly preschool program for kids at the museum and I thought the theme for March would be “Local Living”. So basically indigenous people and how they used native plants, the scientific wonders of living in the rich vastness of Humboldt County, etc. This is an absolutely wonderful wealth of knowledge for my program.

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