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Apache ate an indigenous sweet potato

Apache ate an indigenous sweet potato

Several POOF readers have expressed interest in growing and re-domesticating the indigenous sweet potato.  We are gradually getting more information for you.

  1. The Apaches cultivated a “White Star Potato” which is actually a type of morning glory, indigenous to the Southern Piedmont and Blue Ridge Foothills.   Perhaps the tubers of this plant were traded westward over time.  The White Star Potato and Blue Star Potato Morning Glory species are endemic around an old Native American village site about a quarter mile north of my cabin.

2. The seeds of all members of the morning glory family, including cultivated sweet potatoes, are hallucinogenic.

3. Most Southeastern Morning Glories re-propagate each year via seed sprouting.   Species of Morning Glories that are cousins of the South American sweet potato also propagate from tubers.   They will be “bushy” shaped, whereas small tuber morning glories have long vines that can even establish new roots.

4. If experimenting with the consumption of indigenous sweet potato species be wary that some can have toxic levels of alkaloids.  In other words, the tubers may also be hallucinogenic or even harmful to one or more human organs.  Be careful.

5. It probably would be wise to check the PH of a wild tuber before giving any thought to eating it.    The higher the PH number, the more likely the tuber is to have dangerous alkaloids.  Tubers that have PH factors close to that of a cultivated sweet potato, are probably the safest.

6. A natural form of phenolphthalein in morning glory blooms determine their color. The redder the color of a morning glory flower, the more likely the tuber is to being safe.  A blue or purple bloom could possibly produce a highly alkaline and toxic tuber.

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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history. Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.



    I really appreciate your recent articles about the different food crops in the SE other than corn and beans.

    It is very interesting points about sweet potatoes. I did not realize that there were so many different types of sweet potatoes.

    I found a few different companies that sell heirloom varieties of sweet potatoes if anyone is interested in growing any of them.

    Sand Hill Preservation has the widest selection.


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