Danielle Nierenberg, along with Niyati Shah, recently wrote an article for her website Food Tank, that was also picked up by several other outlets. The article highlighted 20 indigenous foods historically and culturally important to North America.
Growing up in Pike's Timber I was surrounded by oak trees. Magnificent trees with an acorn crop that fed an abundance of game and other wildlife. I always new they were edible, after leaching out the tannins, but did not realize their importance to many native peoples. They are nutrient-dense, high in calories, magnesium, calcium, phosphorous, and vitamin C.
The American Persimmon, also know as "sugar plum", is high in vitamin A, vitamin C, and antioxidants. It is also high in fiber and low in calories and fats. While smaller than the Asian Persimmons found in grocery stores, the trees are low-maintenance and cold hardy making them great for an Iowa food forest. The fruit, which needs time to blet, was used to make cakes, bread and candy by Native Americans.
The Paw Paw, or Indiana (or Michigan, Missourri, Kentucky...) Banana, is a small unique looking tree. The largest edible fruit indigenous to North America, it has a tropical flavor reminiscent of a banana pudding with a touch of mango. It's short shelf life has hindered its marketability in spite of its impressive vitamin and mineral levels.
Abundant Design can plant American Persimmon and Paw Paw in your design right away.
Don't forget to take advantage of the August Specials too!
I have installed Camas (Camassia quamash) for clients along waterways and in prairie plantings, as well as in our home flower beds. It has blue flowers and a carbohydrate and protein-rich root. Native Americans living in the Northwest and Great Basin regions of the US typically cooked the bulbs in pit ovens for a full day or more. This long baking process gives them a sweeter flavor, by changing the inulin to fructose. This plant is gaining popularity with the growing awareness of indigenous food cultures.
|If you use a Windows PC, you've most likely seen Camas in this desktop background|
Not to be confused with the bog grown commercial cranberry, the Highbush Cranberry bush (a viburnum), requires little maintenance and can grow without the irrigation, fertilization, or other intensive farming practices. The berries, interchangeable with true cranberries, can be eaten raw or used to make jams, jellies, sauces, and wine.
Recently I put in some Ostrich ferns in a shady pocket at our house. I can't wait for them to fill in. The "fiddleheads" have a taste similar to asparagus, with an added nutty quality, and should be boiled or steamed before using in any dish. The ostrich fern is a source of protein, manganese and iron, and is high in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids and fiber.
I was surprised to not see Hickory or Walnut on the list. Both of these are now growing in our yard to replace our Ash trees which will eventually succumb to the Emerald Ash Borer. Chestnut, Elderberry and Sumac would also be on a list of important native foods if it was just a bit longer.
Along with Paw Paw and Persimmon, Abundant Design has Highbush Cranberry, Chestnut (hybrid), Hickory, Elderberry, Aronia and many more available for your landscapes.
For even more information, the Center for Prairie Studies at Grinnell College has this downloadable guide to many native edibles found in Iowa.
America has so much productivity and diversity of wonderful food, it is no wonder Columbus thought he may have found the Garden of Eden when he arrived in the New World.
I hope you are having an a-maize-ing summer!