NATIVE AMERICAN GARDENING
Buffalo Bird Woman's Garden
Parched corn was then ground into a meal and used in a variety of recipes. A simple one is sunflower seed balls. When the parched seeds are ground into meal, take a small handful and roll it into a ball. A sunflower seed ball was carried by Native Americans and nibbled on when they were tired. It was said that this would refresh them.
In what culture was squash first recorded by archaeologists? (Late Archaic) It was very prevalent with the Woodland Tradition and Historic Indian cultures. The most available recommended seed types today are acorn, turban, hubbard, and bush scallop.
Planting should occur during the latter part of May and the first of June. Squash can be planted, indoors, in individual pots in April and transplanted outdoors, or kept in large pots, at least 12" deep.
Take the shell or bone hoe and loosen the soil, fifteen inches in diameter, for a hill.
Using the digging stick, follow behind the person with the hoe and plant the seeds, or seedlings, on the side of the hill, in pairs. The two seeds in a pair should be planted two inches apart and the pairs at least twelve inches apart. Plant the seeds at least 2 inches deep. In a traditional Three Sisters garden, the squash is planted beneath under the corn to help with preventing soil erosion and weed growth.
- Growing Season:
Squash plants should have at least an inch to an inch and a half of water and six hours of sunlight per week.
Gather the squash when ripe. In some instances, Native Americans picked squash when they were four days old, feeling that anything older would not be good food. Squash that are not cooked and eaten fresh should be cut and dried or saved for seed for the following year.
Slice the ends of the squash off, then slice from side to side, and not end to end. The slices
should be almost half an inch thick.
Note: Women were sometimes "hired" to do the slicing. They kept the first and last 2-3 slices of the squash as their wages.
The slices are spitted on willow rods to dry. The squash spit should be a half inch in diameter and
2 1/2 feet long. The spit should be sharpened to a point at one end; the other end should have a small amount of bark left on (the rest being stripped away) to keep the squash from slipping off. Separate the squash slices a half-inch apart. The rods should be placed on a makeshift drying rack. After two days, the slices should be loosened on the rods and spread out again. On the third day they are ready for stringing. Original strings were made of grass string, with a ten-inch wooden needle on the end. String the first two slices onto the string almost to the end; now loop the string back and tie just above the slices. This will keep the slices from slipping off the string. Once strung, they could continue to dry in a dry, sunny area.
Dried squash slices were then stored in either bags or in storage pits to be eaten during the winter.
Dried seeds can be roasted by coating lightly with oil and salt and placing on an oiled baking sheet in a 250 degree Fahrenheit oven for about 20 minutes.
Squash blossoms were also harvested during the growing season for food. Remember, that the squash comes as a result of the blossom, so be careful how you pick them.
Fried Squash Blossoms
3/4 c flour
1 qt. Squash blossoms washed, with stems removed.
1/4 tsp. Baking soda*
3-4 c vegetable oil
pinch of salt
1 c milk
- Mix together the flour, salt and baking soda
- Add milk
- Fill skillet with about 1-1/2 inches of vegetable oil. Heat to between 325-350 degrees Fahrenheit. Please use caution! An adult should perform this step.
- Cut each squash blossom in 2 or 3 pieces and dip in batter.
- Carefully drop each coated blossom into oil. Fry until brown and crisp. Drain on paper towels.
*baking soda is not part of the traditional recipe.
When squashes were brought in from the field, the little girls would go to the pile and pick out
squashes that were proper for dolls….pick out the long ones that were parti-colored; squashes
whose tops were white or yellow and the bottoms of some other color. We put no decorations on
these squashes that we had for dolls. Each little girl carried her squash about in her arms and
sang for it as for a babe.
Beans of many varieties, including kidney, navy and pinto, were a staple in Native American, both prehistoric (beginning with the late Woodlands) and historic, diets.
Plant beans immediately after planting squash. They can be started in individual pots but will do just as well in their permanent location, whether it is a plot of land or in large pots.
A tradition method of planting pole beans was to companion plant them with corn. The beans (b) can be planted between the corn (c) rows and alternately with the corn plants.
c c c
c c c
If planting with corn, wait until the corn is at least a few inches tall, or else the beans will outgrow the corn and smother it.
A southeastern Native American story relates how Bean Woman turned down suitors until she agreed to marry Corn Man. She was so happy that she threw her arms around him. It is said that this is why you see bean plants twined around corn in gardens today. (Refer to Native American Gardening for the complete tale.)
- Growing Season:
Plants should get at least an inch of water per week and 6 hours of sunlight.
Because the beans were mainly used dried, they were allowed to dry on the vine. When the entire vine was dry, they were pulled up. The vines, with the beans were laid out on a tarp. With moccasined feet, Native American women would trample the vines, shuffling their feet to shake the beans from the pods. Threshing was done in this manner instead of beating them out, like the sunflowers, because beans often would fly when beaten and many valuable beans were lost.
This was done on a windy day so that the beans could then be winnowed. Taking handfuls or shallow pans full of the trampled vines and beans, they were tossed into the air, the beans would fall and the chafe would be blown away. The horn rake would help in separating the large pieces of chaff. After they were winnowed, the beans were allowed to dry for one more day.
The beans were then stored in bags or storage pits.
2 c dried beans
pinch of salt
Cover beans with cold water in large bowl and soak overnight. In the morning, add more water and a pinch of salt. Boil the beans until they are tender. Add more water if necessary while boiling.
Instead of winnowing the beans, they could be picked from the vine slightly green and dried in the pod. When dry, they can be strung and stored. The dried beans will appear pale and leathery. They can be soaked overnight and cooked like fresh beans.
Corn first appeared with what prehistoric Indian culture? (Late Prehistoric) What is another name for corn? (Maize) The corn was used mainly dried for meal and eating in the winter.
Post Harvest Activities:
Plant seeds directly in garden plot after the fear of frost. If planting in individual pots, many pots
will be needed to insure pollination. They can be planted in rows, with plants approximately 12 inches apart, or in hills with six to eight seeds per hill. Plant the hills far apart so that in hilling up later, there will be adequate soil to use. The seeds should be planted 1/2 to 1 inch deep.
- Growing Season:
The corn will grow vigorously with full sunlight and an inch to an inch and a half of water per week. If roots begin to appear, hill soil up around the roots to help support the stalks.
The large tassels at the top of the plant are the male flowers and the silks are the female parts of the corn. At least twenty plants are needed to insure adequate pollination.
The corn can be pulled when the silks turn brown and eaten fresh. Most of the crop should be dried. Allow the entire plant to begin to dry and then pull the corn from the stalks. The husking always occurred in the field. Husking involves removing the husks from the ears of corn. The ears would then be placed on platforms to dry. In some instances, long ears were put aside and braided together by their husks and dried on poles.
When dry, Native Americans would sometimes construct a booth (walls around a platformed area) in which they entered with flails of cottonwood or ash to beat the corn off of the cobs. For entire classroom participation, hand shucking the corn with your thumb or a corncob would be better.
The cobs were burned and the cooled ashes were made into balls that would be used for seasoning dishes.
Shallow bowls were used to winnow the chaff from the corn on a windy day.
String Corn husks
- Choose 6 large husks. Lay them on top of one another, large end at the top.
- About 1" from the top, tie them together tightly. Cut the corners off, rounding them to a "head."
- Holding the head, turn the figure upside down and pull the husks, one at a time, firmly over the head, dividing the husks in half. Tie the husks to make the neck.
- Take 2 long husks and roll them together into a long piece. Separate the husks on the body of your doll and place the arm piece up against the neck. Tie the ends of the arms to make "hands".
- Tie the arms in place with a piece of string, criss-crossing over the chest and back.
- For the shoulders, take 2 more husks and fold each one into a strip 1" wide. Cross them from front to back at each side. Tie around the waist.
- Husks may be added at the waist to make a skirt, or the bottom husks may be cut in the middle (leave about 1/2" from the waist uncut), separated and tied at "ankles" to form pants.
Put dry kernels in a dry frying pan over low to medium heat. Do not use oil. Stir until the kernels are lightly browned
1 cup stoneground cornmeal
2 c boiling water
pinch of salt
2 Tbl. Maple syrup
3/4 c light cream
1/4 c vegetable oil for frying
- Mix cornmeal and salt. Scald this mixture with the boiling water by gradually adding the water as you stir rapidly. Stir until smooth
- Stir in maple syrup
- Cool the batter and thin with cream until it is of medium consistency, not runny.
4. Drop the batter by the spoonful onto a well-oiled griddle. Flip after about 5 minutes and cook another five minutes. Remove from griddle and set on paper towels to drain.
Students may utilize mapping skills by drawing a map of the garden area, to scale.
Students may graph the planting and production of plants and crop yields.
Students may graph rainfall or other weather.
The Ohio Historical Society's
Ohio Historical Center
Museum at Fort Ancient
Caduto, Michael J. and Bruchac, Joseph. Native American Gardening. Fulcrum Publishing,
Golden, CO; 1996.
King, Frances B. Plants, People, and Paleoecology. Illinois State Museum, Scientific Papers, Vol. XX.
Illinois State Museum, Springfield, IL; 1984.
Wilson, Gilbert L. Buffalo Bird Woman's Garden. Minnesota Historical Society Press, St. Paul; 1987.
Wymer, Dee Anne, Dr. Hopewell Paleoethnobotany. Bloomsburg University, PA; June, 1994.