AMAH MUTSUN ETHNOBOTNY
By Sara French, AMLT Research Associate
Ethnobotany is the study of the human relationship with plants. Each AMLT newsletter highlights a native plant that is used by the Amah Mutsun. We hope you enjoy learning more about the useful and culturally significant plants all around us.
California bay – sokkochi
Fall is the time to gather acorns, buckeye fruits, rose hips, and bay nuts. The California Bay, called sokkochi in the Mutsun language, produces green fruits that resemble a small avocado – and in fact, the California bay and the avocado are in the same plant family, Lauraceae. The Mutsun people have traditionally eaten both the fleshy part and the kernel of the abundant fruits of the California Bay, called bay nuts. Fruits are gathered from the ground when they were green or turning purple, but not yet wrinkled and black. To eat the kernel the flesh is removed from the seeds immediately after gathering, and then the seeds are traditionally dried for one year. Then the dried seeds are roasted and the seed coat peeled off to reveal the edible kernel inside. These roasted kernels can be eaten whole or ground into a flour and mixed with other foods. Today the Amah Mutsun Land Trust Native Stewardship Corps continues to gather bay nuts in the fall and is experimenting with reintroducing them to the Mutsun diet.
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