Whole Life Magazine

October / November 2018

Issue link: https://digital.copcomm.com/i/1047374

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Page 7 of 31

J uana shakes the oak tree with her sisters until acorns drop from the branches. In this way, the Tongva women harvest acorns together. It is Autumn, and the acorns are plenti- ful. Once collected, the acorns are laid out in the sun to dry. Later Juana and her sisters will store them in a large grain bas- ket, taking care to place it on a platform raised above the earth and out of reach of rodents. When Juana prepares acorns for eating, she cracks them out of their shells and peels the kernels out of their paper-like skin. Using a stone mortar, she grinds them to fl our. The next and very important step is to leach out the bitter-tasting tannins by pouring water over them in a leaching basin made of layers of fi ne and coarse sand. She knows this could take most the morning, but it is very important to be done completely, and so she is patient. When done, the bitter taste will have been removed from the fl our. The Tongva Women can then prepare the acorns as a mush, soup, or "bread." Acorns have been a staple of Native Americans' diet for 4,000 years or more. They were the most important plant food for many tribes, as they are very nutritious. In this case, Juana and her Tongva sisters would have been collecting acorns from the Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia) in Topanga Canyon San- ta Monica Mountains, where the Tongva people lived. (Their territory abutted that of the Chumash tribe of Malibu. Tongva were also known as Gabrieleños.) Besides the Coast Live Oak, the acorns from many other oak tree species, such as Black Oak and Valley Oak, can be harvested. Besides making fl our from acorns, Native Californians would also make fl our from the pit of the Hollyleaf Cherry fruit (Prunus ilicifolia). After removing the pit's poisonous outer layer, the kernels were crushed and then leached, like the acorns, before being turned into fl our meal. Though the fl esh of the fruit can also be eaten straight off the tree, or fermented into an intoxi- cating drink, the Native Californians' main use for the Hollyleaf Cherry was making fl our. When it came to foraging for wild edible plants, the Na- tive American peoples knew what to eat and what not to eat. They had extensive knowledge about the resources that were available in the land in which they lived, and they passed this knowledge down to their children. They were also aware of the medicinal values of the plants around them. Most of this information has been lost to us, which makes it diffi cult to know what is safe to pick or eat of the wild bounty that grows around us. The Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia littoralis) would have pro- vided sustenance to the Tongva people of the Santa Monica Mountains. Meaty and nutritious, Juana and her sisters would have harvested the fl eshy pads called "nopales" of Prickly Pear Gratitude for the Bounty AUTUMN IS HARVEST TIME city of angels By Kathy Vilim 8 wholelifetimes.com

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