|Biscuitroot flowering in the Blue Mountains|
While returning from Denver via the Blue Mountains, some Balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata) caught my eye so Katrina and I stopped to explore the flora around the John Day River in Eastern Oregon. The Balsamroot were just starting to leaf out in a rocky seep with several other interesting plants. Blue Mountain Onion (Allium fibrillum) was about to flower, two species of Biscuitroot (Lomatium triternatum and L. donnellii) were just starting to flower, and Yellow Fritillaria (Fritillaria pudica) were already in bloom. All of these have edible roots, and I tried three of them.
|Blue Mountain Onion|
Using my trusty digging stick, I pried a few Balsamroots from the earth to experiment with. While at the Ethnobiology Conference I had a conversation with Kimberly Chambers about my attempt last fall to eat the fibrous roots of Balsamroot. Kim studied Balsamroot for her Master’s Degree and recommended harvesting smaller roots, earlier in the season. The roots in front of me fit the bill since they were just leafing out and were no more than ½ inch in diameter. I steamed them for half an hour and found that they were tender enough to chew and swallow. They have a very resinous flavor, but I imagine that prolonged cooking (as was traditional) would leach out some of the resin and further soften the roots.
|Nineleaf Biscuitroot just starting to flower|
The Biscuitroots were even more exciting because I had never tasted them before. I unearthed a few specimens of both Nineleaf Biscuitroot (Lomatium triternatum) and what I believe to be Donnellii’s Biscuitroot (L. donnellii). Nineleaf Biscuitroot has relatively long, thin leaf segments and a long taproot that frequently has a tuberous enlargement several inches below the soil surface. The roots that I dug up ranged from about 5-8 inches long, but the rocky nature of the soil made it difficult to get the entire root, and I always left an undermined length of root behind in the soil (perhaps part of the plants evolutionary adaption to being edible?).
|Nineleaf Biscuitroot (Lomatium triternatum) roots|
|Possibly Donnelli's Biscuitroot|
I am very eager to continue experimenting and learning about the many wonderful root foods found east of the Cascades and I feel like I got off to a good start with Biscuitroot.