Ethnobotany is the study of how people of a particular culture and region make of use of indigenous plants. It is also the study of the interaction between plants and people. The Center will staff master gardeners and herbalists to assist in offering a fusion of modern and Pre-Columbiam cuisine curated to reflect the traditional foods grown and wildcrafted by the original peoples of this land.
The rivers and forests of Arkansas provided a bountiful selection of foods for Quapaw people. For thousands of years, Native people sustained themselves by adhering to the cycles of abundance, maturity and dormancy of wild plants across the seasons and the years. The N.A.T.U.R.E. Center will use its position as a bridge to create and expand awareness about pre-columbian foods and healing capabilities that they offer to us.
INDIGENOUS FOODS AS CUISINE:
BOX ELDER TREE SUGAR/SYRUP
BOX ELDER MUSHROOMS/ELM OYSTERS – PLEUROTUS ULMARIUS
HUITLACOCHE aka MEXICAN TRUFFLES – Taste is similar to mushrooms. A delicacy.
DUCK POTATOES (SAGITTARIA LATIFOLIA)
THREE SISTERS (CORN, BEANS, SQUASH) – It was thought that corn, beans and squash are precious gifts from the Great Spirit, each watched over by one of three sisters spirits.
The Three Sisters is a combination of three plants working together:
Sister Bean fixes, or makes available in plant form, nitrogen from the air.
Sister Corn provides the support for Sister Bean’s trailing vine.
Sister Squash provides ground cover to hold moisture and maintain healthy soil environment as well as deterring animal invaders with its spiny stems.
SUNFLOWER – Can be thought of as the Fourth Sister. This sister supports the beans, lures birds from the corn with her seeds and attracts insect pollinators.
BEE BALM-HORSEMINT-OSWEGO TEA – All parts of the plant are edible — even its beautiful flowers. Favorite among honeybees and hummingbirds. Cures bronchial problems and stomach aches. Antiseptic and an antibacterial agent.
BULRUSH – Young shoots in spring can be eaten raw or cooked. Pollen can be eaten as flour in bread or pancakes. The seeds can be parched and consumed or ground and used like flour. The large, horizontal rhizomes roots can be eaten raw or cooked. Were dried in the sun then pounded into flour.
Purifies water. Used as mats and thatching for houses. The thatching is insulating and water-proof. Shredded rushes were used to make baskets, baby diapers, sleeping mats and menstrual material.
CATTAILS – No green plant produces more edible starch per acre; not potatoes, rice, taros or yams. One acre of cattails can produce 6,475 pounds of flour per year on average. Fluffy “tails” make excellent tinder. Used as insulation, mattresses and absorption.The young cob-like tips of the plant are edible as is the white bottom of the stalk, spurs off the main roots and spaghetti like rootlets off the main roots.
JACOB’S LADDER FRUIT
HICKORY NUTS/HICKORY SUGAR
LAMB’S QUARTERS GREENS
WILD YELLOW LOTUS