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21 July, 2009

Modern Foraging Update

Here are a couple of the prettier foods availble in the Olympia metropolitan area. Both native, both feeding people for millenia.

This is camas, one of the only words English borrowed from the original Northwesterners. Lewis and Clark saw fields of these so blue they looked like ponds. These are a kind of lily whose bulb is toothsome and nutritious, and local Tribes have been burning prairie and cooking these babies in ground ovens since at least 8,000 years ago. That's according to archaeologists, who we can assume have not yet located the earliest one.

So think about it: there are meadows here that would have been swallowed up by forest thousands of year ago without the original resource managers intervening. Meadows full of root food and four-legged food as well. There were strings of these prairie landscape threaded through the western Washington forests 150 years ago, forests that covered less ground than they do today.

These nice salmon-colored berries are, um, salmonberries. Really. I pick them on the trail home from work at this time of year.

These love the prairie edges as well, and I am sure benefited from the fire regime as well. Now they seem to benefit from disturbance, succeeding logged land and abandoned lawns. They come in in July, ahead of blackberries. Trailing along the ground beneath, often as not you'll find the native blackberry, a bit ahead of the invasive (but tasty) alien Himalayan blackberry.

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