I’ve been noticing lately that Bare-stem Desert-parsley (Lomatium nudicaule) is in bloom everywhere on the open sandy areas on the coast here on Vancouver Island. It is not a spectacular plant but it is interesting when one takes a closer look at it. The flowers are small and yellow and form round clusters at the end of stalks.
Taproots of Bare-stem Desert-parsley
Earlier in the year while out at Kin Beach in Comox, British Columbia I photographed some massive taproots of Bare-stem Desert-parsley. Spring storm shore erosion exposed the large root masses. The size of the taproots may be an indication of the age of these plants. In addition, it is a sign that this plant might play a significant role in stabilizing the shoreline.
First Nation’s Use
First Nations used all parts of the plant as a food source. Harvesting taproots began in the spring before the plants flowered. Food preparation methods included eating the roots raw, boiling the roots, pit cooking, or drying for later use. Steam-cooking the roots with yellow glacier lily (Erythronium grandiflorum) bulbs was common. New shoots were popular as a fresh vegetable.
In addition to the roots, seeds, leaves, flowers and stems were also important. According to Nancy Turner, the aromatic seeds were used as an incense, fumigant, house freshener, and as a flavour for meat and fish. Burned seeds acted as an insect repellent. Teas, soups, stews and tobacco used flowers, leaves, stems, and seeds as ingredients.
Harvesting and Cultivating
As with all types of natural food harvesting, it is important to be very careful that you identify the plant correctly. Some roots are not edible. Some roots are deadly. In addition, practice mindful harvesting and minimize your impact on the environment. I also strongly recommend that you take the time to study and learn before using a native plant that you are not familiar with. Preparation and cooking are very specific processes requiring extensive research. Finally, if you plan on adding bare-stem desert-parsley to your garden consider purchasing plants or seed from a reputable nursery like Satinflower Nurseries in Saanich, BC.