Valley Oak (Querus lobata):
The acorns were a staple food, which was leached (rinsed with water) to remove the bitterness, and ground into flour with mortar and pestles. The ground acorns were used in stews/soups, pancakes/tortillas, mush, or layered into pits and cooked with other plants and meats. Oak galls were squeezed to make a blue-black ink for tattoos and tannins were used to make dyes and decorate animal skins.
Deer Grass (Muhlenbergia rigens):
A major grass for creating beautiful, sometimes water-tight baskets to cook food, to carry and store food and other items. Stalks were generally harvested in the spring when easy to pick, then wrapped to keep straight and allowed to cure for a year. They were often soaked prior to weaving into basket. About 1600 stalks would be needed to make one basket.
Santa Barbara Sedge (Carex barbarae):
The rhizomes (underground stems which generally grow horizontally) provided the strongest threads for basket making. The people would manage the rhizome growth by cleaning the soil of anything that might obstruct the growth (i.e., rocks) to allow the rhizomes to grow long and straight. An evergreen grass, the summer flowers range from cream, red and purple colors, which attract butterflies.
Toyon, aka California Holly (Heteromeles arbutifolia):
The wood from this sturdy shrub had many uses including tools, games/toys, fuel for smoking fish, and religious ceremonies. The red berries produced in the fall which were eaten after roasting over coals or dried in the sun.
An evergreen shrub, the summer white flowers attract bees and butterflies. Birds love the berries.
Blue Elderberry (Sambucus cerulea):
This tough, easy-to-grow shrub or tree is dormant in the winter. The spring and summer blooming cream or yellow flowers attract bees and butterflies, with their berries being an important food source to many birds.
Manzanita (Arctostaphylos manzanita):
Its distinctive red wood which was sometimes used to dry and smoke fish. The fruit was gathered in summer, then dried and ground to make coarse meal which would be mixed with a little water during winter months or made biscuits. They would make tea with the berries and tips of the branches, which apparently was a pleasant drink.
Sticky Monkey Flower (Mimulus aurantiacus):
The seeds were used as a food source. They were gathered, parched, ground, and added to foods or eaten by the handful. Flowers were used as décor after drying, made into wreaths, and used in religious ceremonies. The roots and leaves were used for medicinal purposes.
This drought-tolerant, evergreen shrub blooms in the spring, summer, and fall. The bright yellow tubular flowers attract hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. Autumn seeds attract small birds.
Whenever I see any of these California native plants, I think of how the indigenous people of California used these plants over thousands of years. By growing them in our gardens, we honor that history, help the survival of these plants which provide food sources for so many birds, bees, and butterflies, reduce water usage, bring variety to our gardens, and joy to our spirits with their beauty.
Learn more at the Library - Take a free class!
This September, our UC Master Gardeners will present on the topic, "CA Native Plants" at 9 Stanislaus County Library locations. Visit our Calendar at https://ucanr.edu/sites/stancountymg/Calendar/ for dates, times, and locations.
On Saturday, October 7, 2023, we are offering our "The New Front Yard" workshop. Topics include drip irrigation, converting your yard to native plants, and how to garden for year-round bloom! Stay tuned for the registration announcement.
- Enough For All: Foods of My Dry Creek Pomo and Bodega Miwuk People by Kathleen Rose Smith
- The Real California Cuisine: A Treatise on California Native-Plant Foods by Judith Larner Lowry
- Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California's Natural Resources by M. Kat Anderson
- Indian Summer: A True Account of Traditional Life Among the Choinumni Indians of California's San Joaquin Valley
- Great Valley Museum of Natural History at Modesto Junior College's exhibit on Yokuts
- California Native Plant Society: https://www.calscape.org/
Acknowledgment: Lillian Vallee, English professor emeritus, Modesto Junior College, who has shared her passion and knowledge with me over the years of California native plants and their historical uses by the California native people.
Denise Godbout-Avant has been a UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener in Stanislaus County since 2020.
- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced selections for the USDA Regional Food Business Centers. Twelve organizations, including University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, have been selected to establish Regional Food Centers that will provide coordination, technical assistance and capacity building to help farmers, ranchers, and other food businesses access new markets and navigate federal, state and local resources, thereby closing the gaps to success.
In September 2022, USDA announced $400 million available to fund this initiative. In total, USDA will establish 12 Regional Food Business Centers that will serve all areas of the country, including U.S. territories. Regional Food Centers will target their work to historically underinvested communities in their region.
USDA and University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources will enter into a cooperative agreement to establish a Southwest USDA Regional Food Business Center that will serve California, Arizona, Nevada and Utah. The $35 million project will have a particular focus on the Colonias communities – communities within the mainly rural U.S.-Mexico border region with marginal conditions related to housing and infrastructure – of southern Arizona and California. (See Colonia-Community-Map at hudexchange.info.)
“USDA is excited to be partnering with the UC ANR on this innovative and unprecedented initiative,” said Jenny Lester Moffitt, USDA under secretary for marketing and regulatory programs. “By leveraging the expertise now available through these Regional Food Centers, USDA can offer unique support for local food systems development across the country.”
UC ANR will primarily serve to coordinate technical assistance offerings across the multi-state region, managing the timing, frequency and delivery of the Southwest USDA Regional Food Business Center's overall portfolio of technical assistance providers, educational courses, workshops and trainings to reduce the potential for competing and duplicated content.
“It is so exciting to see 16 organizations, across four states, coming together with us to enhance and expand much-needed business support services to our food and farm businesses,” said Glenda Humiston, University of California vice president for agriculture and natural resources.
“Our strategy of quickly scaling existing successful programs offers quick returns on this investment, as does a focus on ensuring service for disadvantaged and historically underrepresented communities of producers, farmers and agrifood businesses.”
Collectively, the organizations selected reflect an impressive cross-section of the varied institutions, organizations and associations that must cooperate to achieve genuinely strong and distributed food systems. UC ANR and the other selected organizations are already engaging with grassroots food and farm organizations and employing a range of creative strategies to build food system resiliency in their regions.
The University of California will provide technical assistance throughout the state through its Cooperative Extension programs, consisting of the Small Farms Program, Regional Food Systems, Urban Agriculture Program, Community and Economic Development Network, and UC campus-based subject matter experts covering food safety, economics and cooperatives.
Partners include California Department of Food and Agriculture; California State University – Chico; California State University – Fresno; Occidental College; Riverside Food System Alliance; San Diego Food System Alliance; UC Santa Cruz; UC Davis; Valley Vision; Arizona Department of Agriculture; Local First Arizona Foundation; University of Arizona; Nevada Department of Agriculture; University of Nevada – Reno; Utah Department of Agriculture and Food; and Utah State University.
Collaborators include Community Alliance with Family Farmers, Center for Good Food Purchasing, Agriculture & Land-based Training Association, Prosperity Market, Farmer Ken, California FarmLink, BAR-C, The Farmers Marketplace, Lost Sierra Food Project, Northern California Chamber of Commerce, 3CORE, Chico-based consulting firm Morrison, Glenn County Resource Conservation District, Kitchen Table Advisors, Diaspora Groceries, The Larta Institute, Los Angeles County Food Equity Roundtable, Los Angeles Food Policy Council, Sustainable Economic Enterprises of Los Angeles, Growing Communities Inc., Health Care Without Harm, Community Investment Corp, Pinnacle Prevention, Arizona State University, White Mountain Economic Development, Food Bank of Northern Nevada, Nevada Farm Bureau Federation, Zion United Methodist Church, Reno Food Systems, Three Square, Blue Lizard Farms, Garden Farms of Nevada, Churchill Entrepreneur Development Association, UNR Desert Farming Initiative, Utah Farm Bureau, International Rescue Committee in Salt Lake City, Utah Small Business Development Centers, and Utah Cattlemen's Association.
More information is available on the Agricultural Marketing Service's Regional Food Business Centers webpage: https://www.ams.usda.gov/services/local-regional/rfbcp.
No one likes to find pests in the pantry or kitchen, especially when they are found inside your food! A variety of insect and animal pests can infest and contaminate flours, grains, dry beans, pastas, dried herbs, dried fruit, and even chocolate!
Earlier this month, UC IPM's Urban Program hosted a webinar to discuss these pantry pests and how you can prevent and control them in your home. Watch the recording on the UC IPM YouTube channel or see the fact sheet Pest Notes: Pantry Pests for more information on the moths, beetles, and weevils you may find in the pantry and kitchen. To learn more about other pests that may also become a problem in food storage and preparation areas, such as ants, cockroaches, or rats, see the UC IPM household pests page.
Be sure to check out the rest of the UC IPM webinars planned for 2023 and register for these free, educational events!
February is a great time to start preparing for your spring and summer vegetable garden, especially if you want to get a head start on the growing season. According to the California Master Gardener Handbook, growing your own transplants from seed indoors can extend your garden season by several weeks, reduce your gardening cost and allow you to grow a more diverse variety of crops.
Growing from seed is not only fun, but it can also save you money. When stored properly a typical seed packet can last several years. Seeds should be started indoors or in an outdoor hot box or cold frame. Start growing the seeds 6-8 weeks before the date you would like to transplant them and when the threat of frost has passed.
Another benefit of growing vegetables from seed is the wide selection of varieties available from seed catalogs. Growing different varieties is important for an extended harvest and to find plants that grow well in your area. Vegetable plants sold in seedling form are generally available in only one or a few varieties. Plants typically started by seeds indoors include broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, parsley, tomatoes and peppers. Seeds typically started in the ground include beans, beets, carrots, peas and turnips.
What do you need to get started?
- Soil mix - The soil media you choose should be fine textured, uniform and airy. Do not use garden soil. It is usually too heavy and often may have disease-causing organisms. A commercial potting mix suited to starting seeds will work well. Fill your growing containers about 2/3 full.
- Containers - You can start seeds in almost any container that has drainage holes. Sterilize recycled containers in a 1:9 bleach to water solution, rinse them well and let them air dry prior to use.
- A location with proper light and temperature - A sunny window is usually the perfect spot as it has strong but indirect sunlight. Seed packages should instruct you on sunlight needs. Additionally, keep your seedlings in an area that stays between 65 and 70 degrees during the day and 55-60 degrees at night.
- Quality Seeds – Only plant seeds from a reputable source. Check your seed packets to ensure your seeds have not expired, and that you are planting them at the right time of year. You can also check for seed viability.
- Water – It is crucial to provide seeds with consistent watering. Seeds and seedlings must be kept evenly moist to thrive.
Steps to starting your vegetable garden indoors
- It is important to follow the instructions on your seed packet. Refer to the seed packet for the proper planting depth, plant spacing, and days to maturity.
- Once you have planted your seeds, water them and continue to do so consistently. The goal is to keep the soil evenly moist but not overly wet.
- Two weeks before transplanting, or when your plants are two to four inches tall, expose them to outdoor temperatures to acclimate them. Do this by leaving them outside in a shady spot during the day for a week, and bringing them inside at night. The following week, leave them outside in their containers during the day and at night, gradually exposing them to more sunlight. This process is referred to as hardening off.
- Transplant your vegetables into the garden, planting them at their original depth. Tomatoes can be an exception to this rule however, so consider this tutorial before planting tomato seedlings. Be sure to handle seedlings with care.
Ask your local UC Master Gardener Program
Have a seed starting or home vegetable gardening question? UC Master Gardener volunteers are available to help. Click here to Find a Program and connect with your local UC Master Gardener Program. You will be redirected to your local county website and contact information. UC Master Gardener volunteers are available to help answer questions for FREE. Happy gardening!
- Author: Mike Hsu
Program with Foothill Indian Education Alliance teaches healthy eating to young people of many tribes
More than a tutoring center, the Foothill Indian Education Alliance facility in Placerville also provides cultural activities for youth in El Dorado and Amador counties affiliated with a broad diversity of Native American tribes.
In addition to traditional crafts like drum- and jewelry-making, the center began offering a food component last summer, through a partnership with CalFresh Healthy Living, University of California – one of the agencies in the state that teaches nutrition to people eligible for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).
“A lot of the kids, because they don't live on a reservation or their family might not be connected to a local tribe, don't know a lot of their history or their foods,” said Cailin McLaughlin, nutrition educator for CalFresh Healthy Living, UC, based at the UC Cooperative Extension office in El Dorado County. “Food is a good way to explore any heritage because food is at the central point of a lot of cultures and customs – sharing meals and sharing stories behind it.”
Last spring, McLaughlin worked with Hal Sherry, the head tutor at Foothill Indian Education Alliance, to create a new, five-week “summer camp” during which youth would learn about and prepare Native foods in the center's kitchen, primarily with ingredients from its backyard garden.
Sherry said that the experience provided the participants – 10 elementary school students and seven middle or high school students – an important perspective on the interconnectedness of all living things.
“Part of the objective of the program is for them to understand that each one of us is part of the natural order of things, and that we have to do our part to fit into that cycle,” he explained. “There's kind of an ecological lesson that's also being learned…and we don't want to put poisons in our bodies, and we don't want to put poisons in our environment.”
Program combines cultural lessons, nutrition information
For the summer program, McLaughlin selected a curriculum centered on garden-based nutrition, and infused it with elements of Indigenous food ways.
“We predominantly picked ingredients that had cultural significance to Native American communities, so things like blueberries, blackberries, pine nuts, squash, things of that nature,” she said. “So we could feed into the history of that ingredient, why it's important to the Indigenous communities – and then give (the students) the nutritional information about it.”
After the youth prepared chia seed parfaits – from a recipe that is part of a series developed by CalFresh Healthy Living, the California Indian Museum and Cultural Center, and the Center for Wellness and Nutrition – a Foothill Indian Education Alliance staff member shared that Native hunters would eat chia seeds for strength before a long hunt.
Many of the participants had never had chia seeds before, and the parfaits were an “absolute favorite,” in the words of McLaughlin.
“I wish we could have made them more often!” said Lacey, a fifth grader who participates in the center's programs year-round.
In addition to working outside in the garden, Lacey said she also liked cooking in the kitchen during the summer camp – and the fact that the young people could take the lead.
“It was all the kids doing it, but (McLaughlin) was just supervising and making sure we were doing it right – it was really nice,” said Lacey, who identifies as Miwok.
Sharing within families, across tribes
Active participation by the young people is one of the strengths of the program, according to Sherry. He expressed admiration for McLaughlin's engaging teaching style, which eschews “lectures” and instead draws the participants into lively conversations about the nutritional content of the ingredients.
“Hopefully they're going to retain some of that knowledge and information and then remember: ‘You know what, yes, I think I would like to have some corn and some beans tonight, because that's going to help my bones grow strong and my eyesight get better,'” Sherry said. “That's really a big part of what we want them to come away with.”
At the end of the summer program, participants also came away with a binder of recipes from a cookbook of Native American dishes, “Young, Indigenous and Healthy: Recipes Inspired by Today's Native Youth.” James Marquez, director of the Foothill Indian Education Alliance, said he heard from students that they were bringing many of the lessons from the program back to their homes.
“I've heard the same kind of thing from parents and grandparents, who have said how wonderful that was and that kids come back home and have an interest in cooking and trying to serve nutritious meals to their families,” Marquez said.
That crucial sharing of knowledge also happens between and among staff members and students, as the center comprises members of many tribes, from South Dakota Lakota to Navajo.
“We serve Native people, we don't care what tribe they come from – they're all welcome,” Marquez said. “What we do represents a lot of different tribes, so we share information from one tribe to another, and that way people can appreciate everybody and what we have to bring to the table.”
Talia, a sixth grader who participated in the summer program, said that she enjoys that cultural sharing.
“I like how I can learn new things…and how I learn more about the people around me,” she explained. “It's also fun to learn about other people's cultures, and what Native American they are, too.”
McLaughlin went on to partner with Foothill Indian Education Alliance on a “Cooking Academy” program during this past fall, and is planning another spring/summer program for 2023, as well. The ongoing teaching and sharing of food ways is just one part of a long process to recover and rebuild Native American cultural traditions.
“Unfortunately, there was a very concerted effort to obliterate the Native culture on this continent; it was a very intentional, very deliberate effort to just stamp that culture out like it had somehow never existed,” Sherry said. “Now there's a much greater awareness of what a terrible thing that was, and so it's like trying to regrow a new garden over an area that was severely burned…and it's being done all over the country.”/h3>/h3>/h3>