Stewardship With Food
When I go out walking, I look for wild rose hips. These small red buds never have very much flesh, they’re more like red skin covering a bunch of seeds.
But they're usable. from the moment the petals fall from it in summer, to months later when they’re completely dry. I always take some home with me, and put them in some hot water and then in my fridge. The next day I’m left with a cold tea that is unbelievably sweet, sour and fruity, like lemonade or hibiscus. I drink it and think about where I got them from. If I went somewhere I already knew well, I knew where they’d await me. If I had found them somewhere new, I now had their location cataloged in my head; added to my map of the world and it's natural wonders around around me. There's wild rose hips down in what we call “the swamp” of Rancho San Rafael. They’re under the lookout at Oxbow Park, where you can also find stinging nettle down by the pond, a single patch of invasive spearmint down the path to your left and mugwort all over. There’s mugwort on the western end of the Idlewild path and a single mulberry tree along with it in the center of the park, in the center of where the path diverges and converges. There’s 2 blackberry bushes by Manzanita Pond.
I have all of Reno proper, from Wells to Keystone, mapped in this way. Late summer turns the city into a wonderland. Last summer I gifted all my friends a sweet and very tart plum jam made from plums picked from the tree in the Extra Mile parking lot on 6th st. It paired perfectly with the richness of a chocolate cake.
Taste has always been at the core of my strongest memories, and food is at the core of many of my connections. I make food to share with my friends and family, to sit and eat together. When I need to show care to myself, I make something nutritious and comforting, to show love for my own body. There are times when I don’t know how to say what I feel, but I show the people I love that I love them in the most direct way I can, by giving them something that not only nourishes their body, but brings them joy. When I recreate food the patatas guisadas con huevos my abuela makes for me in Spain, or the Chả Cá I eat with my aunts and uncles in Orange County, and I share it with my friends, I am sharing my culture and memories in a way I could not do in words.
When I make my rosehip tea, I am connected to and nourished by the land, in the same way I hope to connect with others. I taste the dirt, air, and water that nourished that plant, and I feel it nourishing me. By eating what the land has made, I engage intentionally with the interconnectedness of an ecosystem that we are all already a part of.
Wild rose hips are extremely high in vitamin C, so I thank the plant for strengthening my immune system as the seasons change. In Washo tradition, when the pine nuts ripen they would hold a ceremony, or goom sa bye, to show gratitude and celebrate the food that would last them through the winter. The ceremony was held in the Pine Nut Hills from what’s known now as Virginia City to Coleville and would precede up to six weeks of harvesting pine nuts. Shoshone and Paiute tribes have their own ceremonies, celebrating the land and showing gratitude surrounding the pine nut harvest. The recognition of what the land provides, gratitude, and sense of stewardship is ingrained into all aspects of these indigenous cultures. The pine nut ceremonies are just one expression of a worldview that recognizes place, interconnectedness and the awe one ought to feel at the opportunity to be a part of it all.
Stewardship begins with a recognition that we all take from the land, that everyone who lives here is dependent on it. How can we take with intention and gratitude? And how can we give back, protecting the land and fostering an environment that can continue to provide for the generations to come? How can we cement a worldview that values undeveloped land, that celebrates plants for providing for all wildlife that depends on it, and for simply existing? To me it starts with showing my friends the specific plants I like to visit, making sure they’re still there year after year, and sharing wild rose hip tea and eating plum jam with the people I love.
About the Author:
A proud Nevadan, Tara grew up in Las Vegas, but moved to Reno in 2015 to attend UNR. They graduated with a BA in Anthropology and Art and later spent 2 years working as archeological field technician. Inspired by their time spent in nature as a field tech, they’re now enthusiastic to share the beauty of the outdoors with their community through the Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation. You can often find them enjoying open spaces and making food, art and music with their friends.