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


MANZANITA

Manzanita berries of four species were crushed for sweet, unfermented cider (sakū'ta, P, N; sakē'ma, C, S; īsū'ta, S). The species are Arbutus menziesii (moko'lkine, C), the best and sweetest, Arctostaphylos viscida, A. tomentosa (e'ye, C), and A. manzanita (mo'kosū, C), the poorest. A. patula (palapala, C) was not used, it being eaten by bears, not people.

The manzanita berries were picked by hand directly into a burden basket, or into a flat sifting basket held under different parts of a bush while these were shaken. The twigs and leaves of Eriogonum nudum were used as a brush to clear the ground under manzanita bushes before knocking off the berries. They were used later also to brush the berries together.

The berries were either used at once for cider making or dried and stored for winter consumption. Before use they were winnowed to remove leaves and dirt. Sometimes winnowing was by tossing a handful in the air and blowing the waste from it.

In making cider the berries, sometimes after a brief boiling, were reduced to a coarse meal by grinding. The meal was placed in a winnowing basket set over a water-tight cooking basket. Water was then poured over it, a little at a time, percolating through until all the flavor was gone from the meal. This was ascertained by tasting. Finer particles of the meal passed into the lower basket, so the liquid was decanted. It was then ready to drink. It would keep without souring from two to four days. It was used as a refreshing drink, particularly in summer and at social gatherings.

Manzanita cider was sometimes employed as an appetizer. In such a case it was “dipped” with a plume stick (sō'ma, S). This was a short stick with several small hawk tail feathers lashed to one end. It was dipped in the cider and the beverage sucked from the feathers. This process was said to create appetite and cure stomach trouble. However, it was thought that the medicinal value lay in the hawk feathers.

Stems of Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis), tepute (C), were also used as a brush to dip in manzanita cider, which was then sucked from the stems. The term soma (C) also applied to this device. It was applied also to a species of sedge (Carex) the stems of which were similarly used. Whether soma was originally a plant name or the name for this device is not clear.

Berries were chewed for the sake of the flavor, but not swallowed. The leaves were chewed to relieve stomachache and cramps.



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