Fall 2017 Newsletter


Edited by Jay Scherf, AMLT Program Coordinator

Pokker, wild cherry ( Prunus ilicifolia).   Photo  courtesy  Noah Elhardt ,  CC BY 2.5

Pokker, wild cherry (Prunus ilicifolia). Photo courtesy Noah ElhardtCC BY 2.5


Ascención Solórsano was a Mutsun healer and leader who had extensive knowledge of Mutsun culture, language, plant uses, and customs. In the 1920s and ’30s she shared her knowledge with John P. Harrington, an ethnographer from the Smithsonian Institute. Harrington recorded over 78,000 pages of her wisdom, which are stored at the Smithsonian. In each newsletter, we share a selection from these notes. Here are some of Ascensión’s words:

Reel 61.1, Frames 48.2 – 51.1

Pokker, Wild Cherry, Islay,1 Prunus ilicifolia

My mother told me—I myself did not see it—that they used to gather lots of wild cherry seeds and when they had gathered lots, they put them on to boil, and they tasted the same as cooked beans. They threw out the outer shells, only eating the nut inside.

It’s harmful to eat lots of the raw wild cherry fruit. One likes them and eats them and eats them, and then gets nauseated and gets very sick. But nothing will happen if you don’t eat them like a hog.

There’s a lot of wild cherry on Pacheco Pass, and up there in the hills, there’s also a little bit around Gilroy. The wild cherry is a tree, the same as a cultivated fruit tree. There’s black wild cherry and red wild cherry, and both types are found around Gilroy. There used to be a ton of wild cherry trees, both black and red ones, there on the road to Solis; those trees are around fifteen feet tall, and spreading, but now they’ve built a big house to one side of the trees, and now I can’t go to eat them when I want to. They’ve taken my orchard from me, I don’t like it at all.


1The Spanish term, islay, is itself derived from the native Salinan name for wild cherry, slay.

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