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Food History - Wild foods

Prehistoric humans lived on wild foods. Gathering edible native plants must have been an important activity. The seasonal nature of harvesting rice, nuts, and berries contributed to human migratory patterns. Natural foods were the only option available for most of human history.

Foods were eaten that were available locally. California natives harvested acorns and ground them with stone mortars, while desert southwest people gathered pinyon nuts, or pine nuts, among other foods, of course.

Wild animals were a major food source from prehistoric eras to pioneer days. Hunting for meat required specialized skills and tools, like pictures of the blow-gun, boomerang. bow and arrow, or spear. This meant time spent not only searching for game, but making arrowheads, quivers, and other apparatus. Hunting with guns arrived later and became a sport as well as a necessity.

Fishing was another important historical source of food. Coastal people caught many species of fish and shellfish, while salmon were abundant inland, as well as other freshwater fish such as trout. Stone made excellent spear points for fishing with spears; bone was used for hooks, and plant fibers were woven into nets or weirs. Shellfish were once so abundant that people heaped oyster remains in huge piles called shell middens along the coast.

To preserve food for lean times, early humans learned to dry berries and meats, to cache food so it did not have to be carried along, and to cook food before it spoiled. Learning to make fire also allowed people to eat foods that were indigestible raw. Nuts and seeds, such as grains, could be dried for storage or ground into flour or meal. The need to keep stored food from getting wet is one reason pottery was developed. Pots also held water for drinking and cooking.

Even after some wild animals and plants were domesticated, wild foods remained in the human diet. Depending on geography, every culture added vitamins by collecting fruits such as coconuts, bananas, oranges, berries, and apples--and for flavor, wild onions, herbs, and other plants. Animals that weren't domesticated were still hunted for food, bone, hides, and feathers.


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