Monday, February 02, 2009

Native Edible Plants

Chokecherry berriesRight outside of the home I grew up in, visible through the west-facing kitchen windows, was a stand of chokecherry trees. They bordered our neighbor's land, along a dirt alley that was once a proper town road in years past. We would harvest the berries each year to make jelly from, a favorite treat in the middle of long winters on fresh homemade bread my Mom would bake.

Come to find out, chokecherries - along with several other native foods - have long been used by natives and settlers alike...

The local woodland environment along the rivers of the lower Red River also supplied Indians and traders with vegetable products for food. Sugar was made from the sap of box elder trees. Other plant products, including shoots and greens, bulbs, roots, and tubers, berries and fruit, and nuts, were harvested by the Indians. Among those plants known to be eaten by the Ojibwa and Ottawa along the Red River were the inner cambium of aspen/cottonwood (poplar) and climbing bittersweet (Celastrus scandens), the tuber of an unidentified marsh plant, hazel nuts (Corylus americana, Corulus cornuta), and plums, grapes, raspberries, chokecherries, wild red cherries, june-or service-berries (poire) and highbush cranberries (pembina). Some of these same plant products, especially the berries, were also collected and eaten by the traders. The riverine environment along the Red River within the study area, therefore, was important for supplying materials and food to both native and non-native occupants of the region during the fur trade era.

From Gough, Barry M. The journal of Alexander Henry the younger, 1799-1814. vol. 1: Red River and the journey to the Missouri. Toronto, Champlain Society, 1988.