Enduring Seeds: Native American Agriculture and Wild Plant Conservation.

Photo of the cover of Enduring Seeds.

Enduring Seeds by Gary Paul Nabhan, University of Arizona Press 2002.

I just finished reading this, and had to review it. I got this from the library thinking that I might be able to glean some good information from it. I ended up reading it cover to cover, and more importantly it has really helped to expand my understanding of indigenous land management.

Nabhan refuses to see the world in simplistic terms, and does an excellent job of advancing the case that traditional land-based cultures and their agricultural practices are vital to both the future of agriculture as well as the health of the planet. He critiques many of our current attitudes as well as showing the great value of wild plants and indigenous crops, while avoiding black and white answers to the problems we face.

Each chapter weaves together compelling stories of the author’s experiences with different cultures and crops, with many fascinating details and complex traditional land management concepts.

I was particularly interested in the idea put forward that not only are small scale indigenous farmers more knowledgeable about the ecosystems that they live in than large scale commercial farmers, but maybe also many hunter-gatherers. The farmers do have to have long unbroken agricultural traditions and still rely partially on hunting and gathering for this to be true.

I strongly recommend Enduring Seeds to anyone interested in wild plants, indigenous cultures, ecology, plant breeding, or heirloom crops. another good read.

Thanks for reading,

Nate

Pawpaw Flowers and Other Treasures.

Photo of me hiking in the woods near the Susquehanna river.
Hiking in the woods near the Susquehanna river.

This past Saturday I went hiking with a friend. We looked for morels, but didn’t find any. We did find plenty of other wonderful woodland delights.

Photo of pawpaw flowers.
Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) flowers.

There were flowers blooming on pawpaw trees both along the main trail, and in many of the more open areas of the woods. I had only ever seen pictures of their flowers before, and was surprised at how many there were. If you are ever in the woods and see these, take a minute and take a closer look.

Close up photo of pawpaw flower.
looking up at a pawpaw flower.

The pawpaw flowers will in turn develop into large fragrant fruits. I hope to make it back to this area right at the peak of their season. If I collect more than can be used fresh, Teresa Marrone has directions for drying pawpaw slices in her book Abundantly Wild.

Photo of a patch of wild ginger.
A patch of wild ginger (Asarum canadense).

My neighbors have some wild ginger plants in one of their partially shaded flowerbeds, but these were the first wild wild ginger plants that I have ever found. Apparently the rhizomes taste like a milder version of commercial ginger. They could make a nice addition to a woodland forage garden, especially since they tend to associate with lots of other useful native plants like honewort, aniseroot, violet, solomon’s seal, spring beauty, etc.

Photo of wild ginger flower.
Wild ginger flower.

Wild ginger flowers are hidden away at the base of the stems, and very beautiful in their own way. It is well worth the effort to find them even if you don’t plan on harvesting the root.

Photo of a crayfish.
Some kind of crayfish.

At one point while we were hiking we had to jump over a small fast moving creek. My friend spotted this crayfish. While at some point I would like to start including crayfish in my diet, we just watched this one until it slipped back into the water.

Photo of sassafras leaves and flowers.
Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) leaves and flowers.

On Sunday my wife and son and I went for a walk in the woods at the park near here. I was glad to see that the sassafras trees were blooming and the leaves were opening up. I love sassafras tea, and while many people prefer to dig the roots, I think the leaves are every bit as good.

I went back Tuesday and picked a small bag of leaves. Now we have sassafras iced tea in the fridge, and a decent amount of leaves dried for the winter.

Thanks for reading and sharing in the little treasures that the woods have hidden around every corner.

Nate

* any pictures or descriptions of plants (or fungi) or information about them is provided for your information and inspiration. I highly recommend foraging, but buy yourself a reliable guide like either of Samuel Thayer’s books from Forager’s Harvest Press.

** I rely heavily on Nature’s Garden and The Forager’s Harvest by Samuel Thayer, and to a lesser extent Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants by Steve Brill, as well as Abundantly Wild by Theresa Marrone. All of these books are quite good, however I find Thayer’s work to be the most reliable and detailed.