Adam Canter, Botanist, Table Bluff Rancheria

Recently United Indian Health Service provided a conference for health care providers throughout the U.S. entitled, Hands on Health.  I finagled an invitation to attend what was the best, most interesting conference ever.  With all of the topics given a hands on focus, this mode of learning was right up my alley.

One presentation I truly enjoyed was a walk through some of the common areas of the Table Bluff Rancheria.  High atop a bluff in Loleta, it is stunning land — but on closer examination with the help of Botanist Adam Canter, I was able to see that the lush green fields were filled with mostly non-native species, many of which were noxious weeds!  Adam told us how they are working to restore native foods in that region – one of these foods was what is commonly referred to as Indian Potatoes.  These “potatoes” are actually several different species of bulbing plants, which are very tiny, and required many hours of baking to yield food.

I talked to Adam about how I recently began reading Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California’s Natural Resources by M. Kat Anderson — it turns out that she is his mentor!  If you grew up with the myth that California Indian people lucked into a rich land of plenty and basically wandered around eating the lovely edibles that just happened to be there, get ready to have your paradigm shaken.   Kat does a wonderful job explaining much of the data that exists about how California Indians shaped this land and worked in concert with nature to bring about the world that white people entered.  Because Indian people have not had the opportunity to interact with the land in the same way in the past century, so much has changed.  There is so much to say about that — but M. Kat Anderson says it way better than I could — so I encourage you to read her book.

I also encourage you to listen to the interviews with Adam Canter, Part 1 and Part 2

This program was supported in part by the Northwest California Tribal Communities Extension Program, a USDA funded project through UC Cooperative Extension of Humboldt and Del Norte Counties



Lena Hurd, Acorns, Traditional Food Harvesting and Basket Making

I met the beautiful and super vivacious Lena Hurd at the Big Time event at Humboldt State University this past spring.  Introduced to her by Jessica Eden, after 10 minutes of talking about wanting to include more stories of traditional foods into our Food for Thought show, we had an invitation to her home in Cave Junction, Oregon.

First of all — I don’t know what to say first of all.  She was so gracious and gave us a tour of her home which was loaded with beautiful baskets and regalia (which she and other friends and family members made).  The home itself was a piece of art, and was full of other art pieces created by both her son and her husband.  I’m telling you this family got into line 12 times for artistic talent!  I was in complete stimulation overload — I didn’t know where to look first.

Then! She took the time and graciously shared information with me about gathering acorns and making acorn mush, gathering various food plants and sea vegetables, and making baskets.  Baskets are so part of making food, from baskets to trap eels, burden and storage baskets to carry plant materials and acorns, and cooking baskets.  One of the things I learned was that baskets were made to be used — and baskets that are kept on museum shelves eventually become brittle and die.  They need to be handled and need the oils from our hands to keep them alive.

Of the many journeys I’ve taken over the years this was quite possibly the very best.  Practically in my own backyard (Oregon), such a rich and wonderful experience learning so much from Lena Hurd.

Acorns, Traditional Food Gathering

Part 1 Basket Weaving, Part 2 Basket Weaving

Basket Weaving coming soon!

This program was supported in part by the Northwest California Tribal Communities Extension Program, a USDA funded project through UC Cooperative Extension of Humboldt and Del Norte Counties

Allison Poklemba, Foraging for Sea Vegetables

If you are like me, you know just enough about foraging to be dangerous!…Yes, I’ve keyed out a mushroom in a mycology course…but did I feel confident?…not so much…

My first seaweed foraging expedition happened when Rhonda Wiedenbeck took me and Simona Carini out — and I found my new best friend…Kombu.  Why kombu?  Because it was easy to ID, and there are literally tons of it out in an area that I felt completely comfortable with.  Not being a swimmer I really wasn’t sure I would enjoy being in that great big ocean wading around — but as it turns out, you go on a really slack tide and you have a nice padding of gigantic rocks between you and the great blue ocean (ie., death by drowning).  Kombu Drying (2) Kombu Drying (8) Kombu Drying (14) Kombu Drying (17) Kombu Drying (19)

So I was very happy to hear that Allison teaches classes in foraging for Sea Veggies — which involves a little bit of time spent in a classroom, and an expedition on a super low slack tide to gather them.

To find out more about Allison’s next class — click here.

To hear part 1 of the two part interview

To hear part 2 of the two part interview

Jim Cotton, Food Growing and Foraging

One of my very first blog posts complete with photos showed “Jim and Kim’s garden” in Arcata — they have a small slice of heaven in the bottoms and the amount of produce they get out of it is astounding.

While I used to be the Garlic Queen among my friends, Kim usurped the throne many years ago, growing dozens of varieties of garlic.  Kim can hardly wait for the new garden supply catalogs to arrive and eagerly dives in to order varieties we’ve never heard of.  When my crop was completely wiped out by rust — she supplied me with seed garlic to start over — and vice-versa.  Since the early days of garlic rust, Kim has beat the rust by planting later (we used to plant on Indigenous People’s Day FKA Columbus Day) — but now we plant in late November or early December.  It works!

Both Kim and Jim are foragers too — gathering mushrooms, mussels, clams, crab, fishing for salmon — they both have a passion for locally produced food, and for knowing the land and what it has to offer.

Listen here for the interview with Jim Cotton

Christa Sinadinos, The Northwest School for Botanical Studies

Foraging is always an interesting phenomenon to me — I am learning new ways to do it, including my latest foray into seaweed collection.  Christa Sinadinos grew up foraging with her Greek-American grandparents, winding up as the director of The Northwest School for Botanical Studies. Listen to the interview, and check out her website.

Seaweed Foraging, Rhonda Wiedenbeck

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Rhonda Wiedenbeck is an avid forager and one of the things she likes to forage for is seaweed — I was lucky enough to be invited to a foray with Rhonda and our friend Simona Carini.  It was a typical summer morning…yep, overcast and chilly on the coast.  Our clothing was an array of mismatched but appropriate tidepool attire…if someone was photographing us for a fashion mag we would be the ones with the eyes blacked out to preserve our anonymity…  We happily came away with some fine bags of Kombu, Nori, and Rockweed (which I have to say…tastes like the ocean smells at low tide…I’ll skip that one next time…)  — but have used the other two in pots of soup and beans and find it tasty and not at all fishy tasting.
Click here to listen to the interview with Rhonda Wiedenbeck about foraging for seaweed.