Eriogonum fasciculatum (Polygonaceae)
English: California buckwheat or flat-top buckwheat. Spanish: valeriana. Kumeyaay variants include: jm’ilh (LAH:TCR; BNR; SJZ); ja’milh (LH:JAM); iy jamilh (NEH); chimilijuur (SCK); jamilj (Cortés Rodríguez 1988); hm’illy (Hinton 1975) (see Figure 21).
A common sight in scrub and chaparral up to 2000 meters, California Buckwheat forms mounds up to one meter tall that flower profusely in summer, turning from white, to pink, to deep rusty red as the season progresses (Lightner 2011). Eriogonum spp. belong to the Buckwheat family and are distantly related to the Eurasian crop plant, common buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) (Hickman 1993). However, the seed of California buckwheat has not been described as a food by any of the Kumeyaay consultants or in any of 85 Figure 21. Teodora Cuero Robles gathers the flowers of Eriogonum fasciculatum. the literature reviewed for this study, except for Bean and Saubel (1987) who simply reported that the Cahuilla gathered and ate the seeds. Medicinal uses for the plant, in contrast, are widespread and generally focus on digestive disorders. For diarrhea and stomach upset, the Kumeyaay use both the roots (Cortés Rodríguez 1988) and the flowers. They use fresh roots for diarrhea, pounding them on a metate and then cooking them until they turn the reddish color of cinnamon tea (Melendrez Silva and Silva Espinoza 2010). According to Jon Meza Cuero, “This is very good for nausea, you use the root, you make a tea and you drink it in the morning and in the afternoon. With this and a sobada (healing massage) of the stomach you cure the infection of the belly. You only cut a part of the root, so that the plant will keep growing” (Meza Cuero 2011:4). Teodora Cuero Robles used California buckwheat flowers for heart troubles: “It’s good for when your heart is pounding in your chest. I used to have this problem and I cured myself just by using this plant. You gather the flowers and boil them in a pot of water to 86 make a tea. Drink a cup when you feel your heart pounding, then take it in the morning and the evening until you feel better” (Cuero Robles 2011:1). Consultants from Nejí use the leaves and flowers to calm the nerves or to sleep. They relieve swollen feet by submerging them in a bucket of California buckwheat tea (Meza Calles and Meza Calles 2011). Celia Silva Espinoza of San José de la Zorra thinks of the changing color of the buckwheat flowers as the signal that her ancestors watched for to mark the beginning of the pinyon season (see Pinus spp.) (Melendrez Silva and Silva Espinoza 2010).