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Miwok Material Culture: Indian Life of the Yosemite Region (1933) by S. A. Barrett and E. W. Gifford


THE BUCKEYE

The buckeye (AEsculus californica [Spach.] Nutt.) tree and its nuts were called unu (P, N) and siwü (C). In times of scarcity the nuts were eaten. The process of preparation was tedious because of the protracted leaching. The resulting product was a soup (nüppa, C). The nuts were collected after they had fallen to the ground, in the autumn. They were roasted in hot ashes, or sometimes boiled, and then peeled, the cover being broken with the teeth. The meats were mashed in the hands in a basket of water. The fine particles settled to the bottom. When there was a sufficient accumulation it was poured into a winnowing basket, set over a large, deep basket. The fine particles ran through the interstices of the winnowing basket with the water. The coarser pieces were retained in the winnowing basket, which was then set in running water, where it remained eighteen hours or more. It was then ready to eat without further cooking.

The fine meal was put in a leaching basin, excavated in the ground. It was leached with cold water, a process which took about eighteen hours, often from noon until the following morning. Thereafter it was ready to eat. No lining was put in the leaching basin. The meal rested right against the sand. Night work by torch light was necessitated by the lengthy period of the leaching. It was done by women. When the leaching was completed, the meal was taken up with the hands and placed in a large basket. No further cooking was necessary. In partaking of the meal, it was mixed with water in a small basket and drunk.

Unroasted buckeye nuts were stored for long periods and sometimes remained edible until the next fall, when the acorn crop was ripe. The eating of buckeye nuts was resorted to only when the acorn crop failed.



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