ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Edible Native Plants of the Great Plains

Updated on June 10, 2010

The Plains Indian tribes of North America are best known for their reliance on the American bison for food, clothing, housing, tools, and more, but in fact they ate a varied and interesting mix of wild fruits and vegetables in addition to the bison meat that was their staple food. The natural diet of the Plains Indians was so good, in fact, that in the early and mid-19th century, the overall level of physical health and well-being of the nomadic Plains tribes was the best in the world at that time.

Modern day wild foods enthusiasts and gardeners can enjoy some of the same health benefits enjoyed by the Plains tribes prior to their confinement on reservations.

Prairie Turnip

Called tinpsila by the Lakota, pomme blanche or Pomme de Terre by the French fur trappers, and Indian Breadroot by later settlers, the Prairie Turnip (Pediomelum esculentum, or Psoralea esculenta) was the other staple food of the Plains tribes.

The egg-sized taproot of this perennial plant was harvested communally in June and July on the Plains. Children would be sent to find the next plant while their mothers dug and harvested the first. Prairie turnips were then peeled and fried, boiled, dried, pounded into flour, or eaten raw, among other methods of preparing it. It could also be dried to store for later use, and the flour was a common component of pemmican.

American groundnut

American groundnut (Apios americana) is an edible root native to wet areas of the prairie and Eastern woodland regions of North America. Similar to baby potatoes in taste, though larger, groundnuts were harvested in winter and eaten boiled, roasted, fried, or raw. They were also valued highly by white settlers - so highly, in fact, that some New England towns during the colonial period made it illegal for Indians to dig groundnut on English land.

EatTheWeeds: Apios americana

Jerusalem Artichoke

Although it is now cultivated domestically around the world, Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) was originally native to North America, where it was found in most regions, including the Plains.

This perennial sunflower produces edible tubers, which can be harvested in fall after the stem and leaves have died back without killing the plant. they can be eaten raw, boiled, fried, pickled, and more.

The related Maximilian sunflower, also native to the Plains and prairie regions, can be used in the same way.

Chokecherries, by briannaorg
Chokecherries, by briannaorg

Chokecherry

The most important edible wild fruit of the Plains and prairie regions, the Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) was the third main staple food of the Plains Indian diet.

The Lakota and Dakota called the first full moon after the Summer Solstice Black Cherry Moon and gathered together at harvesting grounds to collect and dry the berries, to be mixed with bison meat in the preparation of wasna, or pemmican.

If you are interested in gathering these berries, be aware that the seeds are toxic and should not be eaten.

The chokecherry is easily grown in home gardens and is an especially good erosion control plant. It is also an excellent plant for wildlife, especially birds, who use it for both food and shelter.

The chokecherry is similar in habits and appearance to red and black chokeberries (Aronia arbutifolia and Aronia melanocarpa) and are sometimes confused by nurseries. Chokeberries are native to the Eastern United States, including parts of the tallgrass prairie region, and also produce edible fruit which, though bitter, is valued for its nutritional properties.

Wild Plum

August was the Red Plum Moon to the Lakota, who feasted on the sweet, juicy fruits of the Wild Plum (Prunus americana) at this time. The Lakota and other tribes enjoyed wild plums fresh or dried. They remain popular with residents of the Plains today, and are also made into jams, sauces, pies, and more, much like domesticated plums.

Wild plums can easily be grown in home gardens for their delicious fruit. They are especially well suited to the Plains due to their hardiness and drought resistance, and they also attract wildlife such as wild turkey.

Yucca

Though more commonly used as an ornamental today, the Soapweed Yucca (Yucca glauca) was eaten by Plains tribes, who roasted the stalks and ate the flowers fresh.

Other yucca species are also edible.

EatTheWeeds: Yucca filamentosa

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      krishna awasthi 

      3 years ago

      the nature is life

    • profile image

      Arlo 

      5 years ago

      I hope someday soon we will restore the prairie with vast food forests and stretch across the land healing wounds past generation have inflicted on it.

    • pan1974 profile image

      April 

      9 years ago from Columbus,Ga

      Very interesting food I've never seen before.One day I would love to try it.

    • sabu singh profile image

      sabu singh 

      9 years ago

      Interesting hub. The great danger is that this knowledge may be lost to future generations. How do we safeguard and build on the bounties of nature instead of destroying it?

      Perhaps I should do a similar hub on wild Indian plants and fruits.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)