The Journals of Lewis & Clark: Clark, June 11, 1806
Clark, June 11, 1806
Wednesday June 11th 1806
All of our hunters were out by daylight this Morning. Labeech and Shann was the only Suckcessull hunters, Labeech killed a Black bear and a large buck, and Gibson killed a very fat Buck. five of the indians also turned out and hunted untill near Meridn. without having killed any thing. at 3 P M they all packed up and returned to their village. one of our men exchanged an indifferent horse for a verey good one with those people before they left us. in the evening all our hunters turned out in different directions with a view to find some probable Spot of killing deer and were directed to lay out all night and hunt in the morning early. Whitehouse returned this morning to our camp on the Kooskooske in Serch of his horse.
As I have had frequent occasion to mention the plant which the Chopunnish and other nations of the Columbia call Quawmash I Shall here give a more particular discription of that plant and the mode of prepareing it for food as practiced by the Chopinnish and others in the vicinity of the Rocky Mountains with whome it forms much the greatest portion of their Subsistence. we have never met with this plant but in or adjacent to a piney 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 or on those high rich flatts and vallies within the rocky moun-tains. it delights in a black rich moist Soil, and even grows most luxuriently where the lands remain from 6 to 9 inches under water untill the seed are nearly perfect, which in this neighbourhood or on those flatts is about the last of this month. near the river where I had an oppertunity of observing it, the Seed were beginning 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 more than a fiew feet from an 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 tumicated bulb, much the consistence Shape and appearance of the Onion, glutinous or somewhat Slymey when chewed and almost tasteless and without smell in it's unprepared state; it is white except the thin or outer tumicated scales which are flew black and not Suculent; this bulb is from the Size of a nutmeg to that of a hen egg and most commonly of an intermediate size or about as large as a common onion of one years growth from the Seed. the radicles are noumerous, reather large, white, flexeable, Succulent and deviding the foliage consists of from one to four seldom five radicals, liner 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 nearest the middle; the upper 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 of 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 lillies hyisinths &c.- the peduncle is soletary, proceeds from the root, is columner, smooth and leafless and rises to the hight of 2 or 21/2 feet. it supports from 10 to 40 flowers which are each surported by a Seperate footstalk of 1/2 an inch in length scattered without order on the upper portion of the peduncle. the calix is a partial involucre or 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 corrolla expands. the corolla consists of five long oval obtusely 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 each other pointing upwards while one stands horozontially, 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 Seed are perfect. The Stamens are perfect, Six in number; the falaments each elivate an anther, near their base are flat on the inner side and rounded on the outer, termonate in a subulate point, and 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 respect to themselves and the Corolla, Smooth membranous. 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, necked, two valved and fertile with pollen, which last is of a yellow colour. the Anther in a fiew hours after the Corolla unfoalds, bursts discharges it's pollen and becomes very manute and chrivled; 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 tho 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 it's full Size.
the Stigma is three clefts very manute and pubescent. the pericarp is a capsule, triangular, oblong, obtuse, and trilocular with three longitudinal valves. the Seed So far as I could judge are noumerous not very manute and globilar.- Soon after the seed are mature the peduncle and foliage of this plant perishes, the ground becoms dry or nearly so and the root increases in size and shortly become fit for use; this happens about the middle of July when the nativs begin to collect it for use which they continue untill the leaves of the plant obtain Some Size in the Spring of the year. when they have Collected a considerable quantity of these roots or 20 or 30 bushels which they readily do by means of Sticks Sharpened at one end, they dig away the surface of the earth forming a cercular concavity of 21/2 feet in the center and 10 feet in diameter; they next collect a parcel of dry split wood with which they cover this bason from the bottom perhaps a foot thick, they next collect a parcel of Stones from 4 to 6 lb. weight which are placed on the dry wood; fire is then Set to the wood which burning 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 hole as to form as leavel a Surface as possible, a small quantity of earth is Sprinkled over the Stones, and a layer of grass about an inch thick is laid over the Stone; 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 circular pile, are then covered with a layer of grass about 2 or 3 inches thick; water is then thrown on the Summit of the pile and passes through the roots and to the hot Stones at bottom; Some water is also pored around the edges of the hole, and also find it's way 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 10 or 12 hours, after which it is Suffered to cool, 2 or three hours, when the earth and grass are removed. and the roots thus Sweated are cooled with Steam or taken out, and most commonly exposed to the Sun on Scaffolds 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 taste and much the consistancy of a roasted onion; but if they are Suffered to remain in bulk 24 hours after being cooked they Spoil. if the design is to make bread or cakes of those roots they undergo a Second preperation of baking being previously pounded after the first baking between two Stones untill they are reduced to the consistancy of dough and then rolled in grass in cakes of 8 or 10 pounds, are returned to the Sweat intermixes with fresh roots in order that the steam may get freely to those loaves of bread. when taken out the Second time the Indn. woman 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 thus prepared if kept free from moisture will Sound for a great length of time. this bread or the dryed roots are frequently eaten alone by the nativs without further preperation, and when they have them in abundance they form an ingrediant in almost every dish they prepare. this root is palateable but disagrees with us in every shape we have ever used it. the nativs are extreemly fond of this root and present it their visiters as a great treat. when we first arrived at the Chopunnish last fall at this place our men who were half Starved made So free a use of this root that it made them all Sick for Several days after.