When I was growing up, in the pristine mountains at the foot of the Rockies, our winters were long and oh, so cold. As spring bloomed in the low lands, our mountaintop refuge would remain white with snow and we often thought it would be "always winter and never Christmas". And then, ever so imperceptibly, the snow would begin to melt. Rivulets of melted snow would form in the draws and quickly fill the creeks with icy water, adding to the glacier-fed streams cascading from the mountaintops. Little by little, green patches of new grass would begin showing through the snow and by May, a deep green carpet would blanket the hills and vales. Spring had arrived.
|Camas as far as the eye can see|
|Freshly picked bulbs|
Last weekend, Sir Knight and I delivered a wood cook stove to my parents and as we were driving through the mountainous fields of my childhood home, we noticed that the camas was in full bloom. Although I grew up attending the "Camas Festival", I had never tried camas before, much less taken the time to dig and cook the delicate bulb. Deciding that we needed to know more about this abundant natural resource, Sir Knight and I dug a few bulbs on our way home.
After reading various methods and recipes, we decided that a crock pot set on low would be the easiest (though, least authentic) way to cook camas for the time required. Camas is full of inulin, an indigestible starch, that in only broken down through long cooking times at low temperatures. The inulin, if not properly broken down through extended cooking times, causes lower intestinal discomfort and extreme flatulence - definitely not recommended!
|Leave flowers on the bulb until ready to prepare|
|Ready to cut and clean|
|Taking the outer skins off|
|Cleaned and in the crock pot|
|After cooking for 24 hours|
|Sautéed with butter and salt|
I have to admit - the camas was anticlimactic. It was good, but plain. Mostly, I noticed that camas doesn't have much of its own flavor, it borrows flavor from whatever it is cooked with. Since I sauteed the camas with butter and salt, it tasted like butter and salt. I can imagine if it were dried and pounded into flour, it would make a very nice addition to more conventional flours for flat breads or tortillas.
Sir Knight and I had a wonderful trip to my parents and a lovely afternoon picking camas in fields of blue. Although we probably won't make harvesting camas a yearly adventure, we know we could harvest it if we had to. What a beautiful gift from God!
Before you give harvesting camas a try, make sure you know the difference between blue camas and death camas. They both like to grow in the same area and while one will sustain life, the other will, at the least, make you sick, and at worst kill you! Make sure you know what you are foraging!
What a joy to walk through oceans of blue in fields of green!