Sunday, April 29, 2018

Native food plants of North America

The native peoples of North America had a plethora of native food plants to chose from. Of course, in such a large continent different plants are found i different areas. Here are some that I have grown.


This is one of my favourites. Hopnis (Apios americana) is a pretty vine with pink maroon flowers that produces strings of tubers. After cooking these tubers have a sticky potato-like texture and flavour that is filling and nutritious.

They are very tough and can be grown up any fence or trellis.


American Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) is an undergrowth tree that is a relative of the tropical pawpaw. It is frost tolerant, deciduous, and produces fruit that has a flavour that seems to be described differently by everyone who has written about it, it seems to be a creamy mix of banana and mango.. I used to have a dozen seedling trees but only have two tiny ones left after the rabbits got to them last year. I will try to get some more and protect them better.

Pine tree bark (Pinus sp.)

It seems unusual but I have actually gone out and tried the cambium of pine trees, and found that it is pretty good. It is tender and does not taste like pine. It was a surprise to me. I am not going to grow pines just for this purpose but there are heaps of feral pines in the bush to try for yourself in southern Australia.

Banana yucca (Yucca baccata)

My five plants are not old enough to flower yet but in a couple of years I will be able to taste the flower buds or fruit of this desert plant. There are Youtube videos that show how to prepare and cook it.

Brodiaea or Triteleia

(below) This little grassland bulb is actually quite tasty and can be eaten raw as well as cooked. it has pretty blue flowers. They look great as a mass planting but hate weeds. I have had trouble growing them because it is hard to keep weeds out of the bed.

Jerusalem artichoke

Although thought of a famine food, because it is always around. When you plant it you have it forever, many people still love it for soup. It is a relative of the sunflower and produces masses of tubers in autumn/winter. Some people love them and some hate them.

Pecan nut

Although pecans are not popular in Australia we still get them in packets of mixed nuts. This is a native tree that has had a lot of attention and is very popular in the US. I haven't grown these trees yet but have been meaning to put some in.

These are a just a few of the natives of North America, some others like cranberries and some other berries are available in Australia if you search.

Just as an add on, I have started a little online seed store to make a few extra dollars since I had such a bad season. You might find something you would like if you pop in and have a look. I will try to add something new every month.

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