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


The number of species of plants eaten as greens outnumbered those used in the modern dietary. Thirty-seven species were recorded, of which twenty-one have been identified. Most greens were eaten after stone-boiling in a basket or after steaming in the earth oven. Some were eaten raw. They were usually eaten as accompaniment to acorn soup.

Of the species used by the Miwok, the following were recorded among the Pomo and Yuki: Asclepias mexicana21 Cav., flowers eaten; Chenopodium album22 L., leaves eaten; Delphinium hesperium23 Gray, not used; Mimulus guttatus24 DC., leaves eaten; Trifolium ciliatum25 Nutt., leaves eaten sparingly.

The following list gives the botanical name, the Miwok name, the manner of preparation, and any additional notes of interest.

Columbine (Aquilegia truncata (F. & M). Tcuyuma (C). Boiled. Early spring.

Milkweed (Asclepius mexicana Cav.). Istawü (C). Boiled, but goes to pieces. Sometimes the boiled material was added to manzanita cider to thicken it.

White Goosefoot (Chenopodium album L.,). Somala (C). Boiled. Sometimes dried and stored for later use.

Western Larkspur (Delphinium hesperium Gray). Kowe (C). Leaves and flowers boiled.

Larkspur (Delphinium sp.). Witilima (C). Boiled in March when young.

Horseweed (Erigeron canadensis L.). Mututa (C). Leaves and tender tops pounded in the bedrock mortar. Eaten pulverized, but uncooked. Flavor like onions.

Tibinacua (Eriogonum nudum Dougl.). Sapü'la, sapasu (C). Eaten raw. Sour flavor.

Alum Root (Heuchera micrantha Dougl.) Tcuyuma (C). Leaves first to be eaten in spring. Boiled or steamed. After steaming a certain quantity might be dried and stored.

Wild Pea (Lathyrus vestitus Nutt.). Lulumati (C), lu'lumet (S). Eaten as greens. Seeds eaten raw.

Rose Lupine (Lupinus densiflorus Benth.), tūlmī'ssa (C). Early in the spring its leaves and flowers, stripped from the stalk by running the hand along it, were steamed in the earth oven, and eaten with acorn soup (nüppa, C). This plant was regarded as common daily food for which no pressing and blowing ceremony was required. A white variety called tokola (C) was also used.

Broad-leaved Lupine (Lupinus latifolius Agardh.). Wataksa (C), wa'taksa (S), tcī'ūtcīūwa (C). Its leaves and flowers were also steamed in the earth oven and were preferred to L. densiflorus. After steaming, quantities were dried and stored for winter use, being placed in large hupulu baskets. When eaten in the winter, the dried leaves and flowers were usually boiled, after soaking in cold water three or four hours to remove the bitter taste. Sometimes they were eaten without further boiling and served as a relish with manzanita cider.

Common Monkey Flower (Mimulus guttatus DC.). Puksa (C). The leaves were boiled.

Musk-plant (Mimulus moschatus Dougl.). Pokosa, yusunu (C). When young this plant was boiled. It was not stored for winter use, because the quantity obtainable was always small.

Miner’s Lettuce (Montia perfoliata [Donn.] Howell). Sestu (C). The stems, leaves, and blossoms of this plant were eaten raw.

Twiggy Water Dropwort (OEnanthe sp.). Komani (C). Stems eaten raw.

Sweet Cicely (Osmorrhiza nuda Torr.). Tcuyuma (C). The leaves were boiled.

Sheep Sorrel (Rumex acetosella L.). U'uyuma (C). The leaves were pulverized, moistened with water, and eaten with salt. They were described as sour like vinegar.

Green Dock (Rumex conglomeratus Murr.). Sapazü (C). The leaves were cooked and eaten as greens, but the seeds were not used.

Tree Clover (Trifolium ciliatum Nutt.). Olisa (C). This clover was eaten either raw or steamed. The steamed olisa was preserved as patciko (steamed clover dried for later use).

Clover (Trifolium ciliolatum Benth.). Patcuku ( C ), pa'tcūkū (S). This clover was steamed and thereafter eaten, or dried and stored.

Cow Clover (Trifolium involucratum Ort.). Saksamo (C). A white-blossomed clover with vinegar flavor; eaten raw; never cooked or dried. Both leaves and flowers were eaten. If wilted or dry the leaves were soaked and stirred in a basket of cold water for ten minutes, making a sour drink.

Tomcat Clover (Trifolium tridentatum Lindl.). Wilamü (C). Eaten, raw or steamed, before it bloomed. The leaves, stems, and buds were eaten. No pressing or blowing was required before eating the first of the season’s crop. For storage the steamed leaves were spread out on Wyethia helenioides leaves, to dry in the sun for winter use. In winter the stored clover was either soaked in water or boiled before eating.

Clover (Trifolium sp.). Pumusayu (C). Eaten raw or steamed. Steamed clover dried for later use.

Mule-ears (Wyethia helenioides Nutt.). Notopayu (C). Young shoots were eaten raw after peeling off the outer coating. They had a sweetish taste.

The following greens have not been identified: istawü (C), boiled; limisü (C), līmī'su (S), smells like cabbage when cooking; pa'kane (S); palatakina (C), a cotyledon, leaves eaten raw for sour taste and to offset thirst; patsü (C), a sweet clover eaten raw, blossom white with red base; pōma'nī (S); sikku (C), yellow-flowered clover, steamed, dried; tcī'ptca (S); to'lomu (S), a clover; tu'ltulu (N), dried for winter, when eaten moistened and salted to taste; witimo (C), collected in March; wo'utcka (S), a “wild cabbage,” boiled.

21Chesnut, 380.
22Chesnut, 346.
23Chesnut, 347.
24Chesnut, 387.
25Chesnut, 360.

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Online Library: Title Author California Geology History Indians Muir Mountaineering Nature Management