On Saturday, April 25, you can celebrate the week of Earth Day by joining Irvine Ranch Conservancy volunteer naturalists for “Celebrate Cultures in Nature: Native American Flora Uses.” This informative and family-friendly hike will take place in the Baker Canyon area of OC Parks’ Black Star Wilderness Park, and visitors will have the chance to sample treats similar to the native plants people have been eating over the centuries.
During a short hike in Baker Canyon, docents will discuss how early settlers of the area survived and thrived on what nature has to offer. The trained naturalists will point out native plants along the trail and discuss how each species has been used in various ways over the years. Before the hike, participants can sample various natural treats that could have been harvested entirely from ingredients provided by local plants. While no actual plant ingredients can or will be taken from the protected wildlands, participants can see how similar ingredients from plants farmed elsewhere are still used in items you may find in your local grocery store.
Sample traditional Native American snacks like yucca root, black walnuts, buckwheat nectar honey, pine nuts, chia seeds, elderberry granola, strawberries and lemonade berry drink. Learn how the local Tongva and Acjachemen tribes used cactus pads, called “nopales,” as food, often pickled, and how they used the fruit of the prickly pear cacti, or the “tunas,” to make treats like jams, ice cream and thick spreads.
Then, participants will sample treats like navel oranges, avocadoes, lima beans and orange juice, as docents discuss the agricultural and ranching days of the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks.
“This program is a fun opportunity to learn about the land’s history by eating your way through the timeline of the Irvine Ranch,” said Kelley Brugmann, an Interpretive Specialist for Irvine Ranch Conservancy.
After this healthy and educational snack, join docents for a short, 2-mile stroll through Baker Canyon while taking in all the bounty of nature and discussing the various plant ingredients that were consumed before the hike. Food tastings will only take place before the hike, as the plants along the trails are left only for the animals to eat. Those with food allergies, please be aware that certain foods served may contain nuts, soy, and milk.
Spots are still available for next Saturday’s “Celebrate Cultures in Nature—Native American Flora Uses.” Participants 8 and over are welcome, and minors must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
The monthly “Celebrate Cultures in Nature” hiking series aims to celebrate different cultures and the ways that they connect with nature. The ongoing series will return in May with “Celebrate Cultures in Nature—Welcome Spring!” This activity will focus on a Northern European celebration called “Walpurgis Night,” when people celebrate the spring season through song, dance and merriment.
These programs are free, and pre-registration is required. To learn more about these and other offered activities, and to register, visit www.LetsGoOutside.org/activities.