You may have never heard of them but in the heart of the city lies a special group of Elders who call themselves the Tired Moccasins. Made up of Native American or tribal heritage, these seniors participate in the Senior Center Program at the Nebraska Urban Indian Health Coalition (NUIHC). Among the many things they do in the program, one is engaging in nature based activities with No More Empty Pots Garden Manager, Nancy Scott.
This month, Nancy and the Elders traveled to the Schneekloth Prairie to harvest milkweed.
Common name for members of the Asclepiadaceae, a family of mostly perennial herbs and shrubs characterized by milky sap, a tuft of silky hairs attached to the seed (for wind distribution), and (usually) a climbing habit. Forms of this primarily tropical family are especially abundant in South America and in Africa, where many are succulents. Only a few genera are temperate; those species native to the United States are mostly of the genus Asclepias, the milkweeds, or silkweeds. The common milkweed, a plentiful roadside and field plant of the eastern and central states, is A. syriaca. (source: https://www.encyclopedia.com/plants-and-animals/plants/plants/milkweed)
The trip to the prairie was new for some and for others, a refreshing return visit. The expedition brought back memories from the past of harvesting, cleaning, and preparing milkweed, for some as far back as early childhood. With the harvested milkweed, the Tired Moccasins were able to make a few recipes including a popular preparation of soup (Click Here For A Local Recipe).
“…some of the milkweed buds I picked had pink showing. They weren’t open yet, so I thought they were ok. It turns out that the buds are supposed to be closed and still green. The pink buds were unacceptable and someone threw them away!…I had just seen a Facebook post from someone about the milkweed flower bud fritters they just made that week…so we made fritters.” – NMEP Garden Manager, Nancy Scott
“This was one of the best experiences ever. Harvesting milkweed plants just like our Umonhon ancestors did hundreds of years ago. Our next step is going to be cooking milkweed soup. Can’t wait.” – Lavada Pilcher, Elder
“… it was so beautiful out we had fun I was wishing the day wouldn’t end.” – Patricia Cook, Elder
Alongside Nancy Scott, the Tired Moccasins took peas and white radishes from the garden at NUIHC and a few other ingredients to make a soup. One of the elders shared stories of how it reminded her of home and how her mother used to prepare the soup. Another elder had not had it before but said she felt good and strong after eating it.
At the Schneekloth Prairie the group also discovered leadplant and New Jersey Tea plants. In their next activity, the Tired Moccasins will research different ways to make tea from the plants. “Food is medicine and through learning about and encouraging changes in diets and including foods historically used, as well as growing and trying new fresh vegetables and ways to prepare foods that we grow, I hope to help those involved with NUIHC try foods that encourage health.” says NMEP Garden Manager, Nancy Scott.
Want to keep up with the Tired Moccasins? Follow them on Facebook!