Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Yampa, more than a taste

Shin happy holding a new root vegetable
 My good friend Shin biked over from Victoria to visit me and Katrina this weekend.  Shin has a fascinating perspective on food because he grew up eating all kinds of wild foods on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, in Japan, and since Katrina and I were still excited from last weekend’s taste of Yampa (Perideridia gairdneri), we decided to take him on a similar harvest adventure.

Several Yampa plants ready to be cleaned
This time, finding our way safely to the Chuckanut Balds was a little easier.  Rather than scrambling up a cliff-face, we ditched our bikes at the trailhead, and hiked up the short trail to the top.  As before, there were many Yampa plants but we learned that their distribution throughout the bald is patchy.  They sometimes grow alone out of a thick layer of Rock Moss (Racomitrium sp.), and at other times they are in loose groups amongst Chocolate Lily (Fritillaria lanceolata), grasses, and sedges.

Using a garden trowel, we harvested about 25 plants, and I started to notice how difficult it was to predict the size of the corm from the size of the leaves.  I was also surprised to find a few plants that had not one, but two robust corms in addition to an old shriveled corm and a baby corm.  I removed and replanted all the baby corms I saw.  When we got back home, Katrina and I carefully measured the length and width of all the corms as well as the number of leaves per plant and total length of each Yampa plant.  As I suspected, there was only a weak correlation (R2 = 0.4) between plant size and corm size.  There was a stronger correlation (R2 = 0.62) between the number of leaves and the corm length.  Despite large variability in the corm length, they were nearly all 1 cm wide.

Steamed Yampa
As Katrina and I crunched numbers, Shin cleaned, pealed, and steamed the Yampa.  After 10 minutes in the steamer, the corms easily broke apart and he concluded it would be best to cook them with the skins on.  He garnished the Yampa with Chili Pepper-infused Lummi Island sea salt, a Garlic-soy sauce reduction, pickled Grape leaves, fresh Nodding Onion (Allium cernuum) bulbs, Cranberry Spinach salad, and a handful of dried Dates.  Our steamed Yampa had all the flavor of a Parsnip with the soft granular texture of a baked Potato.  As far as I can tell, they are well suited to the uninitiated and even unadventurous palate.  With a little luck, they will grow well in my garden so that I can easily make them a regular part of my diet.

Shin's Yampa masterpiece

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