bananas. A root crop, sweet manioc, is also grown, and this is refined into a rough flour and then converted into a thick, baked bread. Other crops include taro, sweet potatoes, and a palm tree that produces a large crop of fruit. Maize is cultivated as an emergency crop, but it does not figure prominently in the daily diet. Tobacco is another cultivated crop, and the men, women, and children all chew it. Cotton is also grown and is used for making hammocks.
While perhaps 85 percent or more of the Yanomama diet consists of cultivated plants, the Yanomama spend almost as much time hunting as they do gardening. Since they have no domesticated animals, they rely exclusively upon hunting (as well as some fishing and the collection of small animals and insects) for their source of animal protein. Game animals are not abundant, which is typical of tropical forest environments. The most frequently hunted game animals are several species of monkeys, two species of wild pig, armadillos, anteaters, deer, a small alligator, small rodents, and several species of smaller birds. All game animals are shot with arrows. Several varieties of insects, some species of caterpillar, and large spiders are collected and eaten. Wild honey, considered a real delicacy, is collected in large quantities.
The suggestion that the Yanomama were hunter-gatherers in the recent past seems confirmed by the fact that some villages have made the transition to horticulture only very incompletely. People in these villages regularly leave them to spend long periods of time trekking through the forest, surviving largely on whatever game they can kill and plant foods they collect (Good, 1993). These treks may last anywhere from three to six weeks, and as many as six treks might be made in a year’s time. It is easily seen that these groups of Yanomama spend nearly as much time away from their villages as in them.