The Journals of Lewis & Clark: Lewis, June 11, 1806

Lewis, June 11, 1806

Wednesday June 11th 1806. All our hunters were out this morning by daylight; Labuish and Gibson only proved successfull, the former killed a black bear of the brown speceis and a very large buck, the latter also killed a fine fat buck. five of the Indians also turned out and hunted untill noon, when they returned without having killed anything; at three P.M. the left us on their return to ther villages. previous to their departure one of our men exchanged an indifferent horse with one of them for a very good one. in the evening our hunters resumed the chase; as game has become scarce and shye near our camp they were directed to hunt at a greater distance and therefore set out prepared to remain all night and make a mornings hunt in grounds not recently frequented. Whitehouse returned this morning to our camp on the Kooskooske in surch of his horse.- As I have had frequent occasion to mention the plant which the Chopunnish call quawmash I shall here give a more particular discription of that plant and the mode of preparing it for food as practiced by the Chopunnish and others in the vicinity of the Rocky Mountains with whom it forms much the greatest portion of their subsistence. we have never met with this plant but in or adjacent to a piny or fir timbered country, and there always in the open grounds and glades; in the Columbian vally and near the coast it is to be found in small quantities and inferior in size to that found in this neighbourhood and in the high rich flatts and vallees within the rocky mountains. it delights in a black rich moist soil, and even grows most luxuriantly where the land remains from 6 to nine inches under water untill the seed are nearly perfect which in this neighbourhood or on these flats is about the last of this month. neare the river where I had an opportunity of observing it the seed were begining to ripen on the 9th inst. and the soil was nearly dry. it seems devoted to it's particular soil and situation, and you will seldom find it more than a few feet from the inundated soil tho within it's limits it grows very closely in short almost as much so as the bulbs will permit; the radix is a tunicated bulb, much the consistence shape and appearance of the onion, glutanous or somewhat slymy when chewed and almost tasteless and without smell in it's unprepared state; it is white except the thin or outer tunicated scales which are few black and not succulent; this bulb is from the size of a nutmeg to that of a hens egg and most commonly of an intermediate size or about as large as an onion of one years growth from the seed. the radicles are numerous, reather large, white, flexable, succulent and diverging. the foliage consists of from one to four seldom five radicale, linear sessile and revolute pointed leaves; they are from 12 to 18 inches in length and from 1 to 3/4 of an inch in widest part which is near the middle; the uper disk is somewhat groved of a pale green and marked it's whole length with a number of small longitudinal channels; the under disk is a deep glossy green and smooth. the leaves sheath the peduncle and each other as high as the surface of the earth or about 2 inches; they are more succulent than the grasses and less so than most of the fillies hyesinths &c.- the peduncle is soletary, proceeds from the root, is columner, smooth leafless and rises to the hight of 2 or 21/2 feet. it supports from 10 to forty flowers which are each supported by seperate footstalk of 1/2 an inch in length scattered without order on the upper portion of the peduncle. the calix is a partial involucret situated at the base of the footstalk of each flower on the peduncle; it is long thin and begins to decline as soon as the corolla expands. the corolla consists of six long oval, obtusly pointed skye blue or water coloured petals, each about 1 inch in length; the corolla is regular as to the form and size of the petals but irregular as to their position, five of them are placed near ech other pointing upward while one stands horizantally or pointing downwards, they are inserted with a short claw on the extremity of the footstalk at the base of the germ; the corolla is of course inferior; it is also shriveling, and continues untill the seeds are perfect. The stamens are perfect, six in number; the filaments each elivate an anther, near their base are flat on the inside and rounded on the outer terminate in a subulate point, are bowed or bent upwards, inserted on the inner side and on the base of the claws of the petals, below the germ, are equal both with rispect to themselves and the corolla, smooth & membraneous. the Anther is oblong, obtusely pointed, 2 horned or forked at one end and furrowed longitudinally with four channels, the upper and lower of which seem almost to divide it into two loabs, incumbent patent, membranous, very short, naked, two valved and fertile with pollen, which last is of a yellow colour-- the anther in a few hours after the corolla unfoalds, bursts, discharges it's pollen and becomes very minute and shrivled; the above discription of the anther is therefore to be understood of it at the moment of it's first appearance. the pistillum is only one, of which, the germ is triangular reather swolen on the sides, smooth superior, sessile, pedicelled, short in proportion to the corolla atho wide or bulky; the style is very long or longer than the stamens, simple, cilindrical, bowed or bent upwards, placed on the top of the germ, membranous shrivels and falls off when the pericarp has obtained its full size. the stigma is three cleft very minute, & pubescent. the pericarp is a capsule, triangular, oblong, obtuse, and trilocular with three longitudinal valves. the seed so far as I could judge are numerous not very minute and globelar.- soon after the seeds are mature the peduncle and foliage of this plant perishes, the grownd becomes dry or nearly so and the root encreases in size and shortly becomes fit for use; this happens about the middle of July when the natives begin to collect it for use which they continue untill the leaves of the plant attain some size in the spring of the year. when they have collected a considerable quantity of these roots or 20 30 bushels which they readily do by means of stick sharpened at one end, they dig away the surface of the earth forming a circular concavity of 21/2 feet in the center and 10 feet in diameter; they next collect a parsel of split dry wood with which they cover this bason in the grown perhaps a foot thick, they next collect a large parsel of stones of about 4 or 6 lbs. weight which are placed on the dry wood; fire is then set to the wood which birning heats the stones; when the fire has subsided and the stones are sufficiently heated which are nearly a red heat, they are adjusted in such manner in the whole as to form as level a surface as pissible, a small quantity of earth is sprinkled over the stones and a layer of grass about an inch thick is put over the stones; the roots, which have been previously devested of the black or outer coat and radicles which rub off easily with the fingers, are now laid on in a conical pile, are then covered with a layer of grass about 2 or 3 inches thick; water is now thrown on the summit of the pile and passes through the roots and to the hot stones at bottom; some water is allso poared arround the edges of the hole and also finds its way to the hot stones; as soon as they discover from the quantity of steem which issues that the water has found its way generally to the hot stones, they cover the roots and grass over with earth to the debth of four inches and then build a fire of dry wood all over the connical mound which they continue to renew through the course of the night or for ten or 12 hours after which it is suffered to cool two or three hours when the earth and grass are removed and the roots thus sweated and cooked with steam are taken out, and most commonly exposed to the sun on scaffoalds untill they become dry, when they are black and of a sweet agreeable flavor. these roots are fit for use when first taken from the pitt, are soft of a sweetish tast and much the consistency of a roasted onion; but if they are suffered to remain in bulk 24 hour after being cooked they spoil. if the design is to make bread or cakes of these roots they undergo a second process of baking being previously pounded after the fist baking between two stones untill they are reduced to the consistency of dough and then rolled in grass in cakes of eight or ten lbs are returned to the sweat intermixed with fresh roots in order that the steam may get freely to these loaves of bread. when taken out the second time the women make up this dough into cakes of various shapes and sizes usually from 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch thick and expose it on sticks to dry in the sun, or place it over the smoke of their fires.- the bread this prepared if kept free from moisture will keep sound for a great length of time. this bread or the dryed roots are frequently eaten alone by the natives without further preparation, and when they have them in abundance they form an ingredient in almost every dish they prepare. this root is pallateable but disagrees with me in every shape I have ever used it.