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Gathering The Crops of Autumn

The season of nuts and fruits is autumn. The tribes collected their bounty from trees that required a full growing season before their flowers went through a strange metamorphosis to become mature seeds and fruits.

The Native Americans gathered both seeds and fruits from the "mighty oak", hickory, beech, walnut, and hawthorn trees. Grapes from the wild vines were also procured. These were common sources and easily identifiable. When teaching the young children of the tribe what was edible, they were usually taught these plants first.

The tribes could gather the autumn edibles and either make use of them then or prepare them for storage in the winter; they usually did both.

The Native Americans knew that some trees produced what we now call a "mast crop". This meant that there are certain trees such as the oak, beech, hickory and walnut, that are cyclical in nut production. This means that they usually have one large crop followed by two or three years of smaller crops. During the year of the "mast crop", the tribes would take extra measures to ensure they had ample supplies of this autumn bounty, and they usually took note of the cycles for next year's harvest.

The Native Americans were not greedy collectors and did not seriously deplete the stores of these wonderful autumn offerings. They left enough for the animals, and enough for crop regeneration. They knew that if the trees and shrubs were not destroyed, they would provide for them again the following season, and that the offspring of these tress and shrubs would continue to produce only if they protected them. Fruits and nuts were planted by the squirrels and dropped by the birds, and reforestation took place through Nature’s methods.

By:Lelanie Stone, Cherokee Medicine Woman

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