Posts tagged ‘National Museum of the American Indian’
Ever heard of the pawpaw tree? Ever tasted its fruit? Did you even know it had fruit? Though it may not have the name recognition of an apple or a peach tree, pawpaw trees have a long and important history in the United States. In 1541, Hernando de Soto observed Mississippi Valley Native Americans growing pawpaws and eating the fruit. According to scientist Neal Peterson, the Spanish mistakenly named the pawpaw fruit “papaya.” Spanish explorers selected this name because they observed pawpaw fruit to have a similar green skin and orange flesh to a papaya. Overtime, the English language transformed the fruit and tree species name from papaya to pawpaw (Asimina triloba).
According to James A. Little in his 1905 A Treatise on the Pawpaw, pawpaw fruit helped sustain Native Americans and early American settlers in times of harvest failure. Little wrote that pawpaw trees needed little maintenance in order to survive in the wild, unlike apple, pear, or peach trees. Thanks to its resilience, Native Americans and early pioneers enjoyed pawpaw fruit as a dependable source of fiber and nourishment. Even members of the Lewis and Clarke Expedition survived on pawpaw fruit during their long journey west in 1804-1806.
Found between Georgia and Northern Michigan, pawpaws extend across eastern portions of the United States. Unlike the tropical members of the Annonaceae family to which it belongs, pawpaw trees thrive in harsh conditions of snow and ice. Despite this resilience, pawpaws still struggle to reproduce. Scientists believe the tree is ineffective at attracting flies and beetles to pollinate its flowers, thus creating challenges for reproduction.
The pawpaw tree produces a very nutritious and delicious fruit, which is actually a berry. The pawpaw berry is also called a “custard apple” and is said to taste like a mix between a banana and a pear, with a hint of vanilla. The name custard apple derives from the creamy texture of the fruit.
Smithsonian Gardens currently has seventeen pawpaw trees in its Tree Collection. They can be found in the Native Landscape garden at the National Museum of the American Indian, the Butterfly Habitat Garden adjacent to the National Museum of Natural History, and the National Air and Space Museum.
Next time you stop by one of the Smithsonian gardens keep an eye out for this beautiful tree with a deliciously-interesting past.
-Jessica Brode, Archives of American Gardens intern
In preperation for the Smithsonian’s Day of the Dead celebration we are currently growing ‘Hopi Red Dye’ Amaranth and Orange Marigolds in the gardens around the National Museum of the American Indian and in our greenhouses.
The Aztecs, Mayans, and Toltecs commemorated the deceased at fixed times during the year. The Indigenous peoples believed that during these months of the year the deceased could return. To encourage the deceased to return, they offered flowers, food, incense, dancing, and music.
Day of the Dead or “Dia De Los Muertos” is a holiday celebrated in many Latin American countries and in areas of the United States with high populations of Hispanic Americans, including California, Texas, and New Mexico. The festival is celebrated on November 2nd. The culture of the Day of the Dead reinforces the idea that death is not scary or sad but a natural part of life.
In the United States, Day of the Dead celebrations are becoming increasingly common. While the use of skulls, marigolds, and candles is still routine, the altars are sometimes included museum exhibits to make a statement about life in America for Latino Americans. Latino Americans are mixing the traditional with the contemporary in the continuation of this tradition and the preservation of their heritage.
Learn more about the Day of the Dead from the Smithsonian Latino Center: http://latino.si.edu/dayofthedead/.
The National Museum of the American Indian in collaration with the National Museum of American History and the Smithsonian Latino Center will be hosting their annual Dia de los Muertos: Day of the Dead on Sunday, October 27, 2013 and Saturday, October 28, 2013 from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The program will include the exhibition of the ofrendas, food demonstrations, music, dance performances, and special film screenings.
-Mattea Sanders, Fall 2013 Horticulture Collections and Education Intern
Smithsonian Gardens and Mitsitam Café Chef, Richard Hetzler continue their partnership to provide delicious, locally grown food in the National Museum of the American Indian Mitsitam Café. This year, we have expanded the crop growing space to include more plants than ever before by “jumping”onto the museum’s rooftop!
Two varieties of tomatoes, Cherokee Purple and Manyel, tower over their potted companions. New Mex Big Jim Peppers and Serranno Peppers are a dynamic duo that keep things spicy on the rooftop and in the cafe’s recipes. These two staples of summer can be married in a great salsa.
The leaves of an herb found in the containers, Hyptis suaveolens, commonly known as Chan in Latin American countries, can be used in a refreshing drink. Its minty aroma is sure to perk up any midday slump.
Also included in the containers is Tagetes lucida, an herb also known as Mexican Mint Marigold, Texas Tarragon and Yerbis Anis. The lemon colored flower is used in Day of the Dead celebrations and the leaves are used as a heat tolerate culinary substitute for French tarragon.
The beautiful orange blooms of Mexican Marigold (Tagetes erecta), native to Mexico and Central America, are dried and used in traditional Day of the Dead (November 2) celebrations. It is known as flor de muertos (flower of the dead.)
Amaranthus spp. ‘Hopi Red Dye’ is an annual with burgundy stems and maroon foliage. The edible black seeds can be ground to make a high protien flour. Young leaves can be eaten raw or steamed for a nutritious vegetable. Traditionally, Amaranthus is used by the Hopi Indians as a ceremonial dye used to make red cornbread.
Dysphania ambrosioides, espazote, is a small plant with lots of flavor. Commonly used to season bean dishes, epazote can also be used in chili, tamales, mole and enchiladas. Epazote is believed to cure flatulence, which is why it is often paired with beans.
The seed of Carthamus tinctorius or safflower is used to make culinary oil, yellow dyes and seasonings. Long utilized in textiles, dyes from Safflower has been found in the tombs of ancient Egypt!
Wyatt Carpenter, National Museum of the American Indian Horticulture Intern