Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dig it with a stick

One of the only radio stations we get down at the house is KWSO, from the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. So when the alarm goes off in the morning we listen to drumming and singing from Pow Wows but they also feature a couple minutes of language lessons each hour. In the spring, some of the lessons are about edible plants: currants, camas, huckleberries, deer meat, biscuitroot. After introducing the vocabulary, there will be a few sentences using the words and phrases: "we thank the creator for providing this bounty" or "always listen to the elders when they are speaking". Our favorite phrase translates to "Dig it with a stick" in reference to biscuitroot and other tubers.

So now that the biscuitroot is in full bloom, each time we see an especially dense patch, both Nathan and I exclaim, "Dig it with a stick!". So today on our way back from feeding cows we decided to dig some. We didn't have a stick per se, more of a wrench and a pocket knife.

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Biscuitroot was an important food source for the local tribes. The swollen root could be eaten raw, dried and ground up similar to flour or boiled and served as a drink. The greens have a parsley-like flavor (the plant is in the carrot/parsley family). Nathan found a golfball sized tuber the other day but I have never been so lucky to find one that large, it can take years for the root to thicken that much, especially since the plant favors dry, poor soils.

We did find a tuber about the size of an acorn or so but ate it before I thought to take a photo. The root is very mild and the texture is quite soft. Overall, a delicious reward for the amount of careful digging required to pry it from the ground. Next time, I'll skip the pocket knife and just go "dig it with a stick".

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