Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Balsamroot- the challenge continues

I am posting the results of another Balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata) experiment.  My results aren't great, but I figured they might be useful to others so I am sharing them.

Materials: I harvested a few roots from the Methow Valley 2 weeks ago.  They were moderately sized (about 1 inch in diameter at the widest point) and from plants that were in flower, or about to flower.

Preparation: I removed the bark and steamed the roots for 2 hours in a pot.  I tested the roots and they were still very fibrous.  I put them in a pressure cooker and cooked them for another 4 hours.

Results: Tasting the roots was still akin to chewing on a hemp rope soaked in Cottonwood resin.  The flavor was nice, I just couldn't bring myself to swallow a mouthful that was 90 percent fiber.

Discussion:  I have yet to pit cook Balsamroots for 48 hours like was traditional, but I am loosing optimism that the tough fibers will soften into something edible.  The cooking water in the pressure cooker was milky from what appeared to be a carbohydrate like substance  Steamed and baked roots would probably not suffer the loss of these carbs.  I cooked the Balsamroot with the root of Fern-leaved Desert-parsely (Lomatium dissectum).  The Desert-parsely root took on the resinous flavor of Balsamroot, but was still too bitter for me to enjoy.  Balsamroot was traditionally cooked with other roots, and I am starting to wonder if it was used primarily as a flavoring, despite the plethora of ethnobotanical evidence that says Balsamroot itself was eaten.

Conclusion:  Try collecting 1/2 inch diameter Balsamroots in the spring before they flower and steaming them for 48 hours in my slow-cooker.

I would love to hear from anyone that has successfully eaten Balsamroot.

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