In April, Ethnobotany apprentices enjoyed a day communing with one of the highlights of spring in the Pacific Northwest: blue camas (Camassia quamash).
Blue camas was a staple food for the first people who lived here. Camas bulbs are rich in the carbohydrate, inulin, which is indigestible until cooked for a long enough period of time. Native peoples cooked the bulbs in steam pits, which converted the inulin to fructose.
Not only did native people gather camas, they tended the patches by doing periodic controlled burns to ensure their food supply. They also weeded them of the poisonous bulb look-alike, death camas. Although easily distinguishable from blue camas when flowering, death camas has similar leaves and bulbs. Only harvest when the blue flowers are blooming!
We were grateful for a beautiful day and a bountiful harvest of blue camas bulbs!