I set up this thread for people to share their experiences growing or foraging plants that were originally cultivated in the Eastern Agricultural Complex in North America. I am aware that the indigenous people of North America domesticated crops before the arrival of corn, beans, and squash from Mesoamerica around 1000 years ago. I have even read a magazine article and several websites explaining the indepentantly domesticated crops of North America:
Groundnut (Apios americana) Grown for the seeds amd tubers
Hog peanut (Amphicarpaea bracteata)
Common sunflower (Helianthus annuus)
Jerusalem Arrichoke (Helianthus tuberosus)
Bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria)
Squash (Cucurbita pepo ssp. ozarkana) Crookneck squash and ornamental gourds are derived from North American cultivars if Cucurbita pepo.
American black nightshade (Solanum ptychanthum)
Groundcherries (Physalis sp.)
Passion flower (Passiflora incarnata)
Out of the previously listed crops, I have grown ornamental gourds, sunflowers, wooly beans, black nightshade, and amaranth (Amaranthus retroflexus). I have also successfully grown common lamb's quarters (Chenopodium album) from seed for its greens.
Some of the above listed plants are easier to find seeds for than others. Jerusalem Artichoke, Amaranth, Lamb's quarters, sunflowers, crookneck squash, bottle gourds, and groundnuts were at least domesticated until the arrival of Europeans so they are more readily available than other plants listed above. The cultivated variety of lamb's quarter grown by North American Indians went extinct from cultivation soon after the Europeans arrived, but a related Aztec cultivar of the same species, Chenopodium berlandieri called huauzontle is still easy to find seed for online. Groundnuts and hog peanuts are available only sporadically and may require a great deal of searching to find seeds or propagules from a reputable seller. It is also possible to find groundcherry seeds, especially Physalis pubescens, from multiple online stores. Wooly bean (strophostyles helvola) and thicket bean (Phaseolus polystachios) seeds are also available from Prairie Moon Nursery in small packets. Passion flower seeds are widely available online, but they require special preparation in order for the seeds to germinate.
I have not been able to find seeds for other plants from the above list. Little barley, maygrass, marsh elder, and erect knotweed may require a great deal of searching to find seeds for these neglected plants. None of them are common in my location in southwester Ohio, so I cannot wildcraft them for seeds. Solanum ptychanthum grows widely where I live in disturbed areas, but it may be difficult to find in western North America or outside of the continent.
Here is an article from jstor explaining archeological finds of pale-seeded amaranth and huauzontle (or independently domesticated lamb's quarters) found in North America in the ozarks. They identified one amaranth species as "definitely Amaranthus hypochondriacus." In addition to redroot amaranth, I am also growing a purple-leaved cultivar of Amaranthus hypochondriacus and a green cultivar of Amaranthus cruentus called Aurelia's verde.
I am not sure if this is sort of the same thing, but here in Maine there was a huge movement in the 1800's in growing apples. It was a hobby to take certain varieties of apples and graft them with other trees to see what would happen.
The guy that owns Fedco Trees was really into finding the original apple trees, but got cancer and was hampered in energy levels to do so. It was too bad because my farm had vast apple orchards on it, and many of the trees were, and still are, massive in size, and had/have unique color and texture. Clearing started on this farm in the year 1800, and I am sure apple orchards quickly followed, so it would be interesting to see if some of these trees were orginal varieties, or test varieties that really worked out well.
Unfortunately, nearby is an plant that produces woods for smoking meats, and they pay a premium for apple trees over a certain size, so many people are felling their apple trees to sell to the plant, so I have wondered just how many orginal apple trees have gone the way of the Doo-Doo Bird due to that plant being close by. The demand for apple wood is so high, that it is the only type of wood the plant will buy anytime. If you roll in with apple on a trailer over a certain size, they will buy it on the spot. So a lot of apple is being consumed here.
"When it is all said and done, and the coffin goes in the ground, it was the farmer who was the richest man of all."
A statement by a wise, ole dairy farmer.
Although fruit trees are not usually considered part of the Eastern Agricultural Complex, the native American Indians still made use of and often cultivated many species of fruit trees. There are three species of crabapple native to eastern North America: Malus ioensis (prairie crabapple), Malus coronaria (sweet crabapple), and Malus angustifolia (southern crabapple). All of them tend to have astringent or very sour fruit when eaten raw, but they can either be cooked to break down the malic acid, exposed to frost, or made into hard cider or apple butter. The Native American Ethnobotany Database has information for the use of Malus ioensis, Malus coronaria, and Malus fusca for the indigenous people of North america:
In addition to crabapples, the North American Indian people made use of and even cultivated pawpaws (Asimina triloba) and persimons (Diospyros virginiana). Pawpaws have a very poor shelf life when eaten fresh so they have to be preserved if they are to be eaten later. I've heard pawpaws have a flavor vaguely resembling bananas, but I've never had the chance to eat them. American persimons also have a poor shelf life so they are seldom available fresh at the supermarket. They have to be eaten when fully ripe otherwise they are too astringent to eat raw.
I was surprised to find this small groundcherry plant sprouting in my yard. I don't know for sure what species it is, but based on my location in the United States, it is either Physalis heterophylla or Physalis longifolia
Planted some red amaranth starts in a bed prepared by chop/drop.
Month later, the bed is over run by healthy lambs quarters wilst the amaranth plants are stunted and insect damaged.
Why not just eat the lambs quarters in the first place?
The leaves are small and fiddly, to hard to harvest.
Maybe the variety you mentioned above would do well here and grow large leaves.