Yarb Tales
August 29, 2016

The Heritage Herb Garden at the Ozark Folk Center graces the park with visual colors and textures, sweet and pungent aromas. With their natural display, they help us to interpret the history of the human use of plants.

Today the Ozark Folk Center exists to perpetuate, present and promote the Ozark way of life in an educational and enjoyable manner; through craft demonstrations, musical programs, the Heritage Herb Garden, workshops and other special events. Geographically speaking, the Ozark Plateau is a large upland region of the southern United States that ranges from a tiny southern portion of Illinois, southern Missouri, north Arkansas, and just a slice of eastern Oklahoma and Kansas, between the Arkansas and Missouri Rivers. Ethnically, most settlers in the Ozarks were of Scots-Irish, German or English descent. These families were subsistence farmers eating meals based on pork, wild game, poultry, beef, potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, beans, collards, turnips, mustard, poke sallet and corn.
Perhaps the original mission of the founders of the Ozark Folk Center was to preserve what had not been changed by mass media and transit in the back hills of Stone County, Arkansas before 1963. The idea for the Ozark Folk Center grew from the success of the Arkansas Folk Festival, started in 1963 by the Arkansas Foothills Craft Guild and the Rackensack Folklore Society. The plan, a way of boosting economic conditions in this poor rural area, was funded with grants from the Economic Development Administration.  As the Center developed, it became a State Park and the timeframe for interpretation of Ozark culture was set between 1840 and 1940.

So what? So what is the question that Arkansas State Park interpreters answer as they present programming for the public. So what is the purpose of the study of the herbs and culture of South America during the Herb Harvest Fall Festival beginning Thursday, October 6, at the Ozark Folk Center this year. How does this Lavish Herbal Feast menu relate to the Ozarks?

South American-Influenced Lavish Herbal Feast

Sopa de Abóbôra com Coco
Pumpkin & Coconut Soup

Pao de Queijo
Cheese Bread with Cassava Flour

Brazilian Feijoada Completa

(Black beans with a variety of meats, salted, smoked and fresh)
 (Vegetarian black beans with sweet potatoes & chiles garnished with fried egg)

served with
 Arroz Brasileiro
Savory Rice

Couve á Mineira
Sauteed Collard Greens

Toasted Manioc Flour

Tomato Salsa on table

Trio of Sweets
Bolivian Coconut Cookie
Traditional chocolate confection from Brazil
Delicate cookies filled with Dulce de Leche eaten throughout South America

Coffee or Iced Tea with Lemon Verbena

Pumpkin, beans, sweet potatoes, chile peppers (in vinegar for dressing greens) and tomatoes are all foods familiar to the Ozarks. Chocolate, coconut, sugar, coffee and even lemon verbena were available in stores in the Ozarks. Having these treats depended upon the finances of the family. All of these foods originated in South America.

Before the European conquest of the Americas, native peoples were engaged in trade. Archeological evidence has been unearthed from centers of Indian civilization from Cahokia Mounds in Illinois and Toltec Mounds at Scott, Arkansas to the Mayan ruins in the Yucatan. This is how corn, tomatoes, squash, beans and tobacco made it up to the Ozarks from South and Central America.

There is really nothing new under the sun, there are just different shades of seasonings and emphasis on the proteins and carbohydrates that can be easily grown in specific regions. Commerce, which provides the movement of goods around the world and immigration has always enriched the the culture, music and foods of the people living the Ozarks. It is fulfilling and fun to understand these connections—to learn, through lectures and slide shows and, especially through our taste buds, senses of sight, smell and sound. If I don't see you in the future—I'll see you in the pasture.