Gathering Yucca Blossoms
On a whim Nicholas and I set out to a favorite spot to get the dog back in the water. Armed with a digging stick, throwing sticks, bushcraft knowledge, and the new alcohol-stove my brother had fashioned me by upcycling a cat food can, we headed up the canyon to a grove of alder and willow. Once Abalone had thoroughly worn herself out swimming in the creek, we set up our temporary camp. I battered the yucca blossoms we had gathered the day before and got the alcohol stove going in a flash…and man did that little thing generate some heat! We were sautéing in no time flat and just about as fast as Nicholas and I could whittle willow chopsticks, the food was ready.
Blanched Blooms Ready to be Battered and Fried
Alcohol Stove in Action
The trick with yucca blooms is to get them while they’re still closed I have been told, however, as we were a little late in the season, this wasn't an option for us. I followed the advice of a Native American monitor I had worked with a few weeks before, and blanched the blooms three times to help remove the bitterness that the blossoms can contain once opened. As we tasted the first round of fried goodness I could say with assurance that this technique worked wonders, and the dish was an instant classic. No bitterness was evident to me, and the flavor and texture were similar to what I have been told squash blossoms exhibit.
After the feast, we broke camp with a leave-no-trace mentality, and headed back onto the desert heat in search of a young yucca heart to pit roast. We knew we were a bit late in the season, but I was determined to dig the best one we could find, roast it in an earth oven, and give it a taste before moving back north. Once we identified what we thought to be a manageable size and what we hoped was ripe from the observable signs, we set to work with the digging stick.
Digging stick in Action
In very little time we were rewarded. Back in the shade we processed the yucca, removing the roots and leaves. I pounded and rinsed a few of the leaves to separate the fibers and twined cordage to bind the remaining leaves for transport. We wanted to use them to cover our earth oven when we got around to roasting. Nicholas pulverized the roots and made a soap to wash up with in a southern California Native American style. We were both really impressed with how sudsy the soap got, and how well it worked.
Pounding Yucca Leaves to Separate Out the Fibers
Yucca Heart and Leaves Bound in Freshly Twined Cordage
Yucca Root Soap-A Good Forager Leans Something New Every Day
On the hike back we target practiced with the throwing sticks and kept a sharp eye out for the massive rattle snake Chelsea and I had encountered a few weeks back. The path was clear and the sticks flew with ease to great distances. It was a great lazy Sunday, and the dog was so tired when she got home she slept for an hour. Mission accomplished! We’ll keep you posted on the pit roast. Keep the old ways alive!
Words- Kevin Smith, Photos-Nicholas Santos and Kevin Smith