In July, Tongva elder Barbara Drake and Cahuilla/Apache Lorene Sisquoc once again taught their Native Plants for Food and Medicine class at Idyllwild Summer Arts. They were joined by the indefatigable Daniel McCarthy, Tribal Liaison for the U.S . Forest Service. The three instructors introduced students to the vast edible and medicinal wealth that surrounds us in southern California. Barbara and Lori’s vision is ecologically inclusive, embracing the wellness of all species with whom we share the earth. These images are from the week-end workshop. The bee above is gathering nectar and pollinating the wild roses near the bridge at the entrance to the Idyllwild campus. Later in the afternoon, we harvested the petals for a salad. We sprinkled the rose petals on the top of the salad that included greens, mint leaves, jicama, wild strawberries, and pinyon pine nuts. Using a mortar and pestle, we also ground dried rose hips into a powder to make a tea sweetened with honey. Barbara and Lori brought many dried native plants to use for teas, and the students made their own tea bags using the dried plants and fill-your-own cup sized tea bags purchased from the Frontier Natural Products Coop.
Those hands grinding the rose hips belong to Valerie Dobesh, above, one of the students in the class. Valerie is a master herbalist, Reiki practitioner, and mountain gardening specialist. Another thing that makes the class so special and exciting is that the students are such a knowledgeable group of people who come together to learn from Barbara, Lori, and Daniel.
Throughout the workshop, Lori and Barbara talked about the importance of the plants to them, and why they want to share their knowledge with others:
They provide not only our nutrition, but also, they could save some of our people’s lives because most of these foods help with diabetes and all the other things that come along with the way we eat today. We want to keep it going. We want to keep our earth healthy and our people healthy. We want to respect the traditions.
It’s important for all of us to learn how to use them and to take care of these plants and to keep passing it on.
Native California plant teas: Wild rose, stinging nettle, yerba santa, mint, elderberry, and ephedra, among others. Above, a student creates labels for her fill-your-own teabags, which she will seal with an iron. Or you can use a curling iron. When we gather the rose petals, we also gather fresh stinging nettle to make Stinging Nettle and Sunflower Seed Soup. We gather the young, immature leaves at the top of the plant using kitchen tongs. Dried nettle leaves, above, are used in teas. The dried leaves also can be added to scrambled eggs, salads, soups, or stir-frys. The leaves are highly nutritious, rich in iron, magnesium, calcium, boron, and carotenoids, and mildly diuretic. The fresh leaves can be cooked as greens, similar to spinach.
Stinging Nettle and Sunflower Seed Soup:
2 quarts of chicken broth 3 cups of fresh packed stinging nettle leaves 1 cup of sunflower seeds
Simmer @ 20 minutes
The stinging nettle/sunflower seed soup was my favorite. Or maybe it was the tepary beans and nopales salad. Or the cholla cactus buds and corn succotash. Or the venison with tepary beans and whole wheat kernals stew. Or the fresh yucca blossom and bell pepper stir fry. As always, we celebrated the end of the week-end workshop with a Native Foods Feast.
Our teacher, Lori Sisquoc, in the photo below. Throughout the workshop, Lori and Barbara stress just how important it is to interact with the plants, to let the plants know that we appreciate them.
We want to respect the traditions. Our ancestors talked to the plants. They sang to the plants. They prayed with and for the plants. So we want to continue these things even though we might know know all the old ways. But we know some of them. Or the essence of them.
Lori’s partner, Billy Soza Warsoldier below, joins us for the feast (and clean-up). Billy is a well known Cahuilla/Apache artist, and his remarkable paintings can be seen at his website.
The happy students take home invaluable handouts from Barbara and Lori, as well as a beautiful elderberry medicine pouch/necklace each of them crafted during the class.
Below, Krisha Pruhs, an anthropology student, models her elderberry medicine pouch that she decorated with native plants using a word burner. The students sealed the end with beeswax, filled the hollowed out elderberry tube with dried medicine plants: white sage, sweetgrass, cedar, and dried elderberries, and then inserted a cork at the top.