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SLO Botanical Garden Hosts Chumash Kitchen

Story and Photos by Mark A. Diaz

The San Luis Botanical Garden hosted the Chumash Kitchen on Saturday, July 28. Lead by Violet Cavanaugh, the event featured food created by using wild game and various plants gathered from San Luis Obispo County that took volunteers a week to forage and clean. 

The seasonal event, one for each solstice, centers on plants that flourish around that particular time of year. However, the weather does not always cooperate with a set schedule. Due to the timing of the event and the sudden heatwave; the group found it difficult to find a Yucca plant in bloom. The heat had dried the Yucca’s fragile flowers that can be eaten raw, sautéed or brewed with other ingredients to form a tea. 

“We had to scour the county to find one [Yucca in bloom],” said Cavanaugh.  “It smells like Hawaii. It smells like jasmine. It smells like Honeysuckle.”

Apart from the Yucca flower, tea was created using foraged plants from the botanical garden; elder flower, rose hips and yerba buena wild mint.

The event also gave a glimpse into the Chumash culture and the vital role the land plays into it. Songs where sang and sage was burned in honor of the old ways and to invite good energy to the celebration. Guests were also asked to wrap tobacco into cloth ribbons and tie the prayers onto places around the garden in memory of the day and strength for the future. It was explained to the group that tobacco and sage are considered sacred plants to the Chumash community.

The Botanical Garden works with a host of organizations such as Morro Coast Audubon Society, Morro Bay National Estuary Program and in October it will host the Sierra Club’s fiftieth-anniversary celebration.  Lindsey Collinsworth Morgan, the garden’s educational director, said that her big goal for the organization is to make it a collaborating community-based facility. 

For more information at on the SLO Botanical Garden and upcoming events, visit or their Facebook page at

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