Friday, November 28, 2014

Plant Profile -- California Holly

In the old days, Toyon, or California Holly, was the most abundant native food available in the winter, which was traditionally a time of relative scarcity as far as tending the wild.  People relied on Toyon berries to supplement their food stores during the cold months of the year.

Toyon berries may be eaten raw, but usually taste astringent and chalk-like.  When dried, Toyon takes on a subtle sweetness, and may be added to trail mix, or ground into meal and added to acorn porridge or flour for baked goods.  The berries may also be cooked, and are great to add into a stir fry!

Toyon berries added to a nopal, corn, pepper and onion stir fry.  Delicious! 
California Holly is a beautiful, drought-tolerant, native shrub, and tolerates full sun to full shade conditions.  A wonderful plant to grow in your yard, Toyon provides rich habitat for birds and wildlife, and keeps them fed as it  kept people fed in the old days for thousands of years.


  1. Is it okay for dogs? If it is, it's perfect for my back yard.

  2. Hmm, I’ve never heard of anyone saying Toyon might be a danger for dogs. I know some plants display warnings at the nursery -- such as our native grapes, which can be harmful to dogs.

    In any case, I've planted several Toyon in my yard, and am not personally worried that my dog would eat enough raw berries or leaves to be harmed.