With some 500 wild plants available to them, the Indians of California generally did not need to bother with the hard work of farming. They did, however, develop many clever ways of helping wild plants grow and flourish.
For instance, at a young age, women in central California learned to keep meadows of wild hyacinths in bloom. Hyacinth plants produce beautiful pink, purple, and white flowers, but, more important to the Indians, their bulbs could be baked and eaten.
As women gathered the large edible bulbs, they peeled away small bulb growths and replanted them. They also used sticks to break up the soil, so the new plants could get the air and water they needed. Through the women’s careful tending, the hyacinths continued to blossom year after year.
The only crop farmed by most California Indians was tobacco, which they smoked during religious ceremonies.