Great Basin Breadbasket
Indian ricegrass (Oryzopsis hymenoides), as its name
implies, was a staple in the diet of Native Americans.
This abundant, perennial grass prefers the dry,
sandy and silty soils of the desert and high plains.
Its growth cycle begins in early spring and by mid-
summer, the protein-rich seeds are ripe. Indian
ricegrass is one of the desert's most drought-resistant
species and it provides valuable forage for livestock
and wildlife, especially during the lean winter
months. Local Native Americans harvested the
seeds, flash-burned or roasted them, and then
winnwed the chaff by tossing the seed heads in
the air. This stor of grain was ground into flour
and saved for winter.
Grass stems are