One of the first survival plants that I learned about was Tule. When I was a kid we always called it Bullrush and I had visions of baby Moses floating around the Nile river in a basket made from Tule. And with good reason, Tule has a history of being used to make rafts and the ropes that bind them together. Native Americans from all over the New World used Tule to make nets, duck decoys, rafts, twine and and just about anything that you can imagine. Even today it’s used to cane seats. The name Tule covers a lot species in the same genera and there’s some minor differences between them but to the best of my knowledge they all have the same properties and the same general look. Tule is often planted near water features in the south and there it is huge. I have seen that type gst to be somewhere in the neighborhood of eight feet tall with a thick base. Where as our local variety maxes out at about six feet tall and remains slender. Most often I see it less than four feet tall. All of Tule that I’ve encountered has a similar seed cluster at the top and it’s always found close to water.
It’s also a food source of course and hence it’s inclusion in a Forage Friday post. According to the Paiute tribe Tule is the food of giants! If you’re a fan of the arcane then you’re probably already aware of the Si-Te-Cah. The Paiute name for a race of red haired giants translates into “The Tule Eaters”. The legend also says they were cannibals but we can look at that topic some other day. The point is that Tule was an important enough part of Native American Culture that it made it into their mythology. From what I’ve read they used the whole plant. Seeds were used for grain. The young shoots are a cooked green. The base of the stem is a vegetable and the roots were boiled and mashed like potatoes. The mashed roots could also be processed into sugar. The process is similar to making molasses. The root starch and pollen is made into flour.
Aside from food uses it’s also mentioned that the stems were used to treat abscesses and snake bites. ( presented as historical reference only. If you’re bitten by a venomous snake please seek a medical professional!)
Plants like Tule are considered to be nothing more than a weed today. But in the days before big agribusiness they were the main food source.
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