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Agave once cultivated north of Phoenix

Posted: May 22 2009 9:10 pm
by azdesertfather
Saw this article on ScienceFriday.com today, very interesting!
Finding The Roots Of An Ancient Crop
Agave plants, probably best known as the source of tequila, were important as a food crop long before the invention of margaritas. Wendy Hodgson, botanist at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, says the plants were cultivated as far back as 800 AD in some parts of the Southwest. Trek through the Arizona desert to see where agaves were cultivated centuries ago and what remains of the ancient gardens.
See the video here: http://www.sciencefriday.com/videos/watch/10219

Re: Agave once cultivated north of Phoenix

Posted: May 23 2009 6:25 am
by PaleoRob
Interesting, but not necessarily new. There are well documented agave fields terraced into the hills around Safford, and there is the agave roasting pit trail in Sedona. The archaeologists there told us there were dozens of agave pits all across the Verde Valley from Sinagua times. Most southern Sinagua sites show evidence of agave usage.
None the less, a neat link!

Re: Agave once cultivated north of Phoenix

Posted: May 23 2009 11:44 am
by azbackpackr
All around Tucson, S. AZ, too. Ancient agave roasting pits are something that some hikers enjoy looking for.

Re: Agave once cultivated north of Phoenix

Posted: Mar 19 2010 4:37 am
by FreespiritAZ
Thanks for sharing that interesting tid bit of knowledge :) I didn't know much about Agave, and your post prompted me to do some of my own research.
I am amazed at the variety of ways in which native people used it. The leaves were used to make "paper", the spines made great needles, the fibers were woven into baskets, the stalks were eaten like asparagus, the hearts were roasted....and the list of uses goes on and on!

http://daphne.palomar.edu/ddozier/Calif ... asting.htm

Re: Agave once cultivated north of Phoenix

Posted: Mar 19 2010 5:02 am
by azbackpackr
That's interesting! I sent it to my son who has been learning all kinds of primitive skills and putting them to use over the past several years.

There is a primitive skills school near Roosevelt: http://www.reevismountain.org/ and I'm told there is a gathering near Maricopa they call "Winter Camp" every year. It seems there are some interesting and knowledgeable people involved in these groups.

I like this approach to learning arcane outdoor knowledge so much better than the "survivalist" approach, too. It is more about having fun learning about how the Indians survived in the desert, rather than being fear-based. These people get together and show each other the atlatls, and bows and arrows they have been making, and demonstrate flint-knapping (which my son is very good at) and how to use wild plants, how to make baskets and snares, etc. They have atlatl contests, etc. I can't for the life of me find anything about the winter camp, which was last month in Maricopa, on the internet, though.

Re: Agave once cultivated north of Phoenix

Posted: Mar 19 2010 5:37 am
by FreespiritAZ
That sounds awesome! I would love to do something like that! Does this camp provide any information about first aid and medicine using local desert plants?

I find homeopathic/herbal medicine to be very interesting, especially since the cost of health care is rising.

Re: Agave once cultivated north of Phoenix

Posted: Mar 19 2010 6:22 am
by azbackpackr
My son left yesterday for Kanab, Utah, to take a full-time backpacking job there. Yeah, life is tough in these economic times, poor kid...has to hike around in the red rock country and get paid for it... ;) I will try to contact him to find out more for you!

Re: Agave once cultivated north of Phoenix

Posted: Mar 19 2010 11:29 am
by berkforbes
Find out how i get that job! ;)

Re: Agave once cultivated north of Phoenix

Posted: Mar 19 2010 12:51 pm
by FreespiritAZ
In response to azbackpackr:

Wow now that is a dream job! What a lucky duck!

Re: Agave once cultivated north of Phoenix

Posted: Mar 19 2010 1:22 pm
by DarthStiller
azbackpackr wrote:There is a primitive skills school near Roosevelt: http://www.reevismountain.org/
That reminds me of when I went hiking with my neighbor in Jan. 2007 in the Eastern Supes and we got caught in a foot of snow. It was a shuttle hike starting at Tule TH and finishing at the TH by that school. We finished after dark and when my neighbor saw the lights from the buildings/tents there he got all freaked out. "Why would anyone be out here? We should turn off our flashlights so they can't see us!"

I remember laughing saying, "Dude, they have their own website!" :sl:

Re: Agave once cultivated north of Phoenix

Posted: Mar 19 2010 1:46 pm
by azbackpackr
Ok, in answer to the questions about the backpacking jobs: There are a couple places I know of, one where my son used to work, the Anasazi Foundation, whose offices are on Stapeley in Mesa, about a block north of 60. And also the one where he is now going to work, in Kanab, Utah, which is called WinGate. (He tells me there are others as well.)

Both are non-profit organizations which provide "wilderness therapy" to troubled teens. The teens have behavioral problems, drug problems, etc. Both emphasize learning primitive living skills and getting in touch with nature, and trying to promote a change of heart in the teens (as opposed to the boot camp type of "therapy." It does not resemble boot camp therapy at all!!!)

Trailwalker employees at Anasazi, and Wind Walkers at WinGate hike for 8 days and are off 6 days, rotating out with another crew, whereas the clients (teens) are out there for 5 weeks or so. Both companies pay employees by the day--I hear WinGate pays a little better. WinGate walkers stay on roads and trails, whereas Anasazi walkers go almost completely off-trail. WinGate walkers use standard backpacking gear. Anasazi walkers use a sort of bundle, made into a backpack.

In both cases, you also would have the job title of "behavioral health technician" if I am not mistaken. Anasazi seems more concerned about hiring people who espouse a clean living lifestyle (no smoking, drinking, pot, etc.) and a fair number of its employees are LDS. This seems to not be as true of WinGate (even though it's in Utah--go figger.)

Both companies have a harder time finding FEMALE employees! However, that does not mean if you are a male and are really interested that you shouldn't apply! If you look at the websites and it just grabs you, well, I'd say go for it! I'd try it myself if I were young and unmarried.

http://www.wingatewildernesstherapy.com/
http://www.anasazi.org/

Re: Agave once cultivated north of Phoenix

Posted: Mar 19 2010 10:56 pm
by FreespiritAZ
Thanks for all the info Elizabek! :D

Re: Agave once cultivated north of Phoenix

Posted: Mar 19 2010 11:27 pm
by JimmyLyding
FreespiritAZ,
There's actually a fellow HAZ user who seemingly uses native plants for food and medicine. I haven't seen her around in a while, but I'll try to remember her username.

Re: Agave once cultivated north of Phoenix

Posted: Mar 20 2010 12:02 am
by FreespiritAZ
In response to JamesLyding:

Oh that would be great James! Thank you :)

Re: Agave once cultivated north of Phoenix

Posted: Mar 20 2010 12:28 am
by JimmyLyding
Her username is NatSoup, and it doesn't look like she's been active here for a few months.

Re: Agave once cultivated north of Phoenix

Posted: Mar 20 2010 3:30 am
by azbackpackr
I kind of have an opinion about using native plants. (Who me, have an opinion? ;) ) I just think that learning about them is great, but actually eating them should be done carefully. The fact that the Indians ate mesquite beans does not mean you should plan to eat some on your next backpacking trip! If you were to become ill because you are unaccustomed to that food, then you will become dehydrated, and that is not a good thing to have happen when you are backpacking in the desert. So I think that experimentation with eating unaccustomed foods should be done at home!

A word to the wise: Getting the "trots" while backpacking is not fun! :sk:

Re: Agave once cultivated north of Phoenix

Posted: Mar 21 2010 1:02 pm
by FreespiritAZ
Oh, even if I had the knowledge I wouldn't eat native plants unless forced to for survival purposes. The whole idea of certain ethnic or racial groups being more tolerant or less tolerant to specific foods is an interesting one. In my schooling, we talked a bit about nutritional genomics and I always found it to be so fascinating.

I am sure many of you have heard the discussion about how certain races or ethnicites have an intolerance to milk, and that there is a genetic reason for it. Here is a cool link that discusses it in a bit more detail: http://nutrigenomics.ucdavis.edu/nutrig ... B71CC9959A

Also, here is a bit more info on Nutritional Genomics: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nutritional_genomics

Re: Agave once cultivated north of Phoenix

Posted: Mar 21 2010 4:02 pm
by azbackpackr
Furthermore, a few Maricopa, Tohono O'odham and other desert tribes are starting to re-learn about traditional foods in an effort to stem the terrible toll of diabetes on their people: http://www.turtletrack.org/Issues03/Co1 ... e_Cure.htm
http://www.oodham-pathfinders.info/

Re: Agave once cultivated north of Phoenix

Posted: Apr 07 2010 7:05 pm
by pencak
azbackpackr wrote:Furthermore, a few Maricopa, Tohono O'odham and other desert tribes are starting to re-learn about traditional foods in an effort to stem the terrible toll of diabetes on their people
A lot of that can be attributed to overweight. Generations of people living off of the land caused a favorable genetic disposition to be very efficient metabolizing food. Abruptly thrown into a time (less than 100yrs is "abrupt" for generational genetic changes like that) when densely calorie packed processed fast food can make up most of the diet then the weight goes up exponentially.

Think about how the Native Americans used to grind acorns into grain on rock slabs then soak it, etc. It probably took almost as much caloric output to prepare the food as the food itself provided. They had less food to begin with and what they did have took a lot of work to prepare. Sugar was almost non-existent and oil (densely packed with calories) was not as abundant in everyday food. Just getting protein and animal fat was a difficult ordeal.

And I have a good mind to complain to the manufactures about the "hassle" of cooking a prepared freeze dried meal that takes more than 10 minutes of my valuable camping time to cook. :-({|=

Re: Agave once cultivated north of Phoenix

Posted: Apr 07 2010 7:11 pm
by azbackpackr
Plus the white flour. "Indian" fry bread was developed because the government gave them flour and lard, and they had to figure out something to do with it. It is very bad for you, despite how good it tastes!

But in pre-white man times, in addition to grinding all those acorns and such, think of all the walking around they had to do to gather it all. So yeah, a lot of calories burnt while searching for more calories to consume!

Good point!