Pine Nuts & Buck Berries
For how many times I’ve plugged this program, you should know exactly what it is by now, but during my travels with the Shoshone/Goshute Youth Language Apprenticeship Program through Nevada, we participated in various traditional activities led by elders in the different communities we visited. The tiny community of Yomba, smack dab in the middle of the Toyabi National Forest, hosted us for two days and took us through the mountains and the valleys of the rez riding in clunky vans and the beds of pickup trucks. Pine nuts are a traditional staple food for the Shoshone, as are buck berries (or buffalo berries), and a few elders were kind enough to show the group gathering and preparation methods of these two foods. Normally, pine nuts are picked later in the fall since they are still green on the tree in August. However, due to severe drought, people have had to adapt and pick the nuts early. If they wait until normal harvesting time, the pine nuts are shriveled and dry.
Buck berries are also affected by the lack of water, as they are normally juicy and plump red berries, but in some areas they have become smaller and dryer. The buck berry bush is a plant the faint of heart shouldn’t mess with. Covered in thorns at least 1/2 inch long, trying to pick the little berries is a slow and (literally) painful process. However, the Shoshone don’t pick the berries one at a time. Searching for a few bushes that were growing out of control, pruning and harvesting go hand in hand with this plant. We found a few bushes that needed a good prune, cut off a few branches and shaved the needles off one of the ends of the branches in order to grasp it. Then, with another stick, we beat the crap out of the buck berry branch until all the berries fell off. Fast, convenient and relatively pain free if you don’t count blisters. Pine nuts can be roasted or made into a gravy, and buck berries can be dried, made into jam or a tasty pudding. Check out some photos of our pine nut and buck berry experience below.