Adventures with Rogue Food on a Farm

Tarweed, Madia spp.

Those of you who live on the east coast are enjoying summer sunshine, but here in the Pacific Northwest we are still staring at gray skies. That’s why I went south to central California last week and worked on an organic farm in the Sierra Nevada mountains. It wasn’t as hot as I was hoping down there, mainly due to the chilly elevation, but I did get to meet two native wild edibles I had heard about but never before seen in person.

It was a curious thing, the way it happened. There I was, a city person in the countryside, and as unlikely as it sounds, I ended up teaching the rural folks about the food growing on the land. I arrived to find a rolling prairie of golden grass shaded by live oak and manzanita trees. I noticed that the hillsides were dotted with two kinds of bright yellow wildflowers. Naturally, I had to know what they were as soon as I saw them. It was a mystery to my hosts, so I researched the plants on the internet and in books.

I was very excited when I discovered that the first was a kind of golden brodiea called Prettyface, Triteleia ixioides, the bulbs of which were a staple food for indigenous hunter-gatherers of the northwest. This one:

The other was Tarweed, shown at the top, whose seeds were traditionally roasted and eaten. Both plants are also found in Oregon.

It is interesting to me that these folks work 12- to 16-hour days to grow food for their family and their customers on a small portion of the 80 acre property they own, and yet they’re surrounded by nature’s garden, as Sam Thayer calls it — food that grows itself. Isn’t that something?

10 thoughts on “Adventures with Rogue Food on a Farm

  1. Pingback: Lamb’s Quarters: Ancient and Tasty « First Ways

    • This was my fourth time WWOOFing. It was OK, though it was a great deal colder than I wanted to be camping in. In the 30s at night!

  2. I love stories like this! I find it just as amusing when I find myself (a Kiwi) teaching my BC born and bred friends and family about the wild plants around them and their uses.

    Love your blog by the way :)

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