Ancient foods: Apache red grass

      Today, friend and ethno-botanist Richard Felger and his colleague Gregg Dugan came over with potted plants of the native Apache red grass.  We spent the cloudy morning planting 22 plants in our yard here in the forest outside of Silver City.  Why?  These researchers and botanists have been studying and working with plants they think could help transform our agricultural practices and help with some of our global energy, water, economic, and ecological crises.  They have been helping local farmers plant these grasses, and encouraging local restaurants and chefs to cook and bake with the grains, all with promising success.


         These are native grasses that, according to some Apache experts, were the most commonly eaten seeds/grains among local Apache groups due to their tastiness and easy of harvest and processing.  Protein content of these grasses are 50 - 75% higher than in wheat.  They are perennial plants that need very little water, no tilling, and don't need to be re-planted every year.  According to Dugan in the attached article, 10% of the world's economy goes to tilling alone.  For many of us to begin learning to grow or gather, harvest, and eat some of these traditional food plants could have a huge effect not only on some of the problems we face, but on our connection to the land that supports us, and on our heath as well. 

          Felger has also been a huge advocate and driving force behind the renewed movement of harvesting and eating the mesquite beans that grow wild in the Southwest.  This nutritious, delicious, and readily available food has been a staple for people in this part of the country for many centuries, and has only recently been "rediscovered" by many New Mexicans and Arizona residents. 

          My interest in wild plants of this area, and in alternatives to the modern agricultural food model lit me up to find out about this project.  So happy to have these beauties growing in my yard, and to have had the generous help and important knowledge of Richard and Dugan!  

14 comments

  • Gabriel feldman
    Gabriel feldman Mimbres, nm
    That's fantastic Andrew. It makes a lot more sense to be using adapted perennial food plants for the bulk of our plant caloric intake. Thanks for spreading the info and knowledge to the world and community. Not only is it economically ridiculous to till but we're losing our topsoil at an insane rate every year. As I see it the best way to start changing the agricultural system to start growing adapted drought tolerant less energy input plants is to start growing it and spreading the knowledge and get it into the hands of as many chefs and peoples meals as possible. Similar to quinoa that was considered a run of the mill peasant crop until this traveler started promoting it and it became a craze, and is now one of the most expensive grains. It's interesting to think how much knowledge of the local unique foods of the Americas was lost when the people came overseas and the invasion happened so quickly and violently a lot of this precious knowledge was not obtained. Anyway thanks brother awesome website!

    That's fantastic Andrew. It makes a lot more sense to be using adapted perennial food plants for the bulk of our plant caloric intake. Thanks for spreading the info and knowledge to the world and community. Not only is it economically ridiculous to till but we're losing our topsoil at an insane rate every year. As I see it the best way to start changing the agricultural system to start growing adapted drought tolerant less energy input plants is to start growing it and spreading the knowledge and get it into the hands of as many chefs and peoples meals as possible. Similar to quinoa that was considered a run of the mill peasant crop until this traveler started promoting it and it became a craze, and is now one of the most expensive grains. It's interesting to think how much knowledge of the local unique foods of the Americas was lost when the people came overseas and the invasion happened so quickly and violently a lot of this precious knowledge was not obtained. Anyway thanks brother awesome website!

  • Jenn
    Jenn Northern Nevada
    This sounds wonderful! I'm looking for a wild grass to reseed my pasture with? Is there some where I can purchase seed? Please let me know! Baby09makes3@gmail.com

    This sounds wonderful! I'm looking for a wild grass to reseed my pasture with? Is there some where I can purchase seed? Please let me know! Baby09makes3@gmail.com

  • Cedar Smith
    Cedar Smith Gila
    Hey Andrew! I heard Richard Felger speak at the Gila Valley Library the other day and want to get Apache Red Grass and Big Sacaton going here. As a food crop and for seed. You know where I can get seeds or plants? Thanks much! Hope everyone is peachy!

    Hey Andrew! I heard Richard Felger speak at the Gila Valley Library the other day and want to get Apache Red Grass and Big Sacaton going here. As a food crop and for seed. You know where I can get seeds or plants? Thanks much! Hope everyone is peachy!

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