Chapters 10.25

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Lomatium brandegeei 15673.jpg

Suggested citation for this chapter.

Brownridge,R. (2022)Roots, Rhizomes, Corms, Tubers, Bulbs. In The Student Encyclopedia of Canadian Indigenous Foods. Editor, M.N. Raizada, University of Guelph, Canada. http://www.firstnationsfoods.org/

Introduction

The Indigenous people of North America used many food sources that Western society is not very familiar with. An example of one of these foods is the Desert Parsley Carrot (See Figure 1 for a photograph of the plant). The Desert Parsley Carrot (Lomatium macrocarpum) is an edible perennial that is a part of the Apiaceae family more commonly known as the carrot family (Kuhnlein & Turner, 1991). This plant is native to the Western rocky mountain regions and the prairies in the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and the states of Utah, Washington, Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, California, Nevada, and Wyoming (Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, University of Texas at Austin, 2021). Traditionally it was used by the Indigenous people of North America as an important part of their lives and culture as a food source and a form of medicine for certain respiratory ailments (Kuhnlein & Turner, 1991). In conclusion, Lomatium macrocarpum is an edible perennial native to Canada and the United States that was used by the Indigenous people for food and medicinal purposes.

Figure 1 A picture of the Lomatium macrocarpum plant (Morse, 2008).

What is it Used For

The Desert Parsley Carrot and its close relatives have many uses both past and present. Historically, the taproot of the plant was used as a food source for the Nlaka'pamux, Shuswap, Chilcotin, Okanagan-Colville, Flathead, Sahaptin and Lillooet peoples, as they inhabited the area where the plant grew along with lots of other groups (Kuhnlein & Turner, 1991). Lomatium macrocarpum can be cooked or eaten raw (Kuhnlein & Turner, 1991). The Indigenous people often dried and chopped up the plant and used them to add flavour to dishes with some type of protein such as salmon (Kuhnlein & Turner, 1991). The dried parts of the plant were often traded outside of its native area because it was considered something of a delicacy (Kuhnlein & Turner, 1991).

Plants belonging to the Lomatium genus were also used as medicine by the Indigenous people (Natural History Museum of Utah, 2012-2022). Some specific medicinal uses come in the form of a close relative of Lomatium macrocarpum. Lomatium dissectum is a different species from the same genus that was used by the Indigenous people to treat illnesses such pneumonia, colds, hay fever, bronchitis, influenza, tuberculosis and even asthma (Duke, 1997). The roots of the Lomatium plant were prepared in different ways by different groups of people and used to treat a variety of ailments (United States Department of Agriculture, 2011). The Blackfoot, Great Basin, Okanagan-Colville, Nez Perce, Kawaiisu, Shoshni, Paiute, Washoe, Gosuite, Thompson, Ute and Cheyenne peoples all use the plant medicinally, albeit they did not all use them in the same way (United States Department of Agriculture, 2011). Some tribes used the plant as a dietary tonic, while others chewed the root raw to relieve sore throat pain or inhale smoke from the roots or herbal steam to help with respiratory problems (United States Department of Agriculture, 2011). Poultice made from the root of the plant was used to treat rheumatism, cuts and bruises by some Indigenous peoples (United States Department of Agriculture, 2011). Some groups used decoctions made from boiling the roots to treat cold and flu symptoms as well as tuberculosis (United States Department of Agriculture, 2011). Less widespread medicinal uses of the plant were to use the root oil to treat sores and to use infusions of the roots to treat internal disorders or arthritis (United States Department of Agriculture, 2011). The plant was sometimes even used to treat distemper in horses (United States Department of Agriculture, 2011). Many groups of Indigenous people used this plant genus for different things and in unique ways. For example, the Okanagan-Colville peoples crushed the roots and used them to poison fish to make them easier to catch, which is something most other Indigenous groups never did (United States of Agriculture, 2011). The Indigenous people of North America had a lot of different plants that they used for different things. This particular plant is only one of many that was used for medicine, food and other everyday uses.

Physical Appearance

The Desert Parsley Carrot (Lomatium macrocarpum) can be anywhere from 10-51 centimetres tall (Natural History Museum of Utah, 2012-2022). The plant has a large, thick taproot and the leaves that grow on this species are usually small in size and have a blue, gray or green colour (Natural History Museum of Utah, 2012-2022). The flowers that Lomatium macrocarpum produces can be white, purple or yellow and are arranged in clusters (Natural History Museum of Utah, 2012-2022). The leaves of the Lomatium macrocarpum are gray-green and usually only grow close to the plant base (Natural History Museum of Utah, 2012- 2022). They have a petiole ranging anywhere from 1.5-7 centimetres in length and a blade that can be anywhere from 2.5-15 centimetres long (The Jepson Herbarium, University of California, Berkeley, 2022). The Lomatium marcrocarpum looks very similar to other plants in the Lomatium genus. However, there are key differences between the species such as the size, width, leaf shape and flowers.

Growing Conditions

Typically, Lomatium macrocarpum usually grows in rocky or dry areas (Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, University of Texas at Austin, 2021). This species can grow in the Western Rocky Mountains located in British Columbia, Alberta, Washington, Colorado, Montana, Utah, Idaho, Nevada, and California. It may also grow in the dry open prairies located in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota, Idaho and Oregon (see Figure 2 for a map of the plant’s distribution) (Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, University of Texas at Austin, 2021). Lomatium macrocarpum has an ideal elevation level of 150-3000 metres above sea level but the perennial can grow outside of that elevation as well (The Jepson Herbarium, University of California, Berkeley, 2022). The Desert Parsley Carrot can bloom in February, March, April, May or June; the time it blooms depends on which area it is located in (Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, University of Texas at Austin, 2021). These growing conditions are the reason why Lomatium macrocarpum and other species of the Lomatium genus have never been cultivated in large amounts despite their various uses.

Figure 2 A distribution map of Lomatium macrocarpum, Light Green = High population of the plant, Dark Green = Lower population of the plant, Brown = No population of the plant (Natural History Museum of Utah, 2014).

References

1.Constance L. & Wetherwax M. (2022). The Jepson Herbarium, University of California, Berkeley. Retrieved from https://ucjeps.berkeley.edu/eflora/eflora_display.php?tid=31433

2.Duke, J.A. (1997). The Green Pharmacy. Emmaus, Pennsylvania: Rodale Press

3.Kuhnlein, H.V. & Turner, N. J. (1991). Traditional Plant Foods of Canadian Indigenouspeoples: Nutrition, Botany and Use. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Gordon and Breach Science Publishers

4.Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, University of Texas at Austin. (2021). Plant Database: Lomatium macrocarpum. Retrieved from https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=LOMA3

5.Natural History Museum of Utah. (2012-2022). Bigseed Biscuitroot. Retrieved from https://nhmu.utah.edu/bigseed-biscuitroot

6.United States Department of Agriculture. (2011). Fernleaf Biscuitroot Lomatium dissectum (Nutt.) Mathias & Constance. Retrieved From https://www.fs.usda.gov/rm/pubs_other/rmrs_2011_tilley_d002.pdf