On 1st April 2017, I visited the Compost Education Centre in Victoria BC, Canada, where I’d enrolled on an indigenous plant walk around the grounds, lead by Ashley Cooper (Tsartlip First Nation) and is working to revitalize important cultural knowledge and practices in her community and beyond.
The centre has a small garden, but it is packed with many traditional and indigenous useful plants. It is a non-profit organization providing courses and workshops on organic gardening and composting in the Greater Victoria area (see https://www.compost.bc.ca). Here are a few pictures and a couple of videos of Ashley talking about camas and stinging nettle!
The coastal peoples harvested and semi-cultivated the wild stands of camas, both Great camas (Camassia leichtlinii) which was commonest around Victoria and common camas (C. quamash). In Victoria, Beacon Hill (see separate post) was an important site as were small offshore islands, where soils weren’t deep over rock and hence easier to harvest (my garden is perfect in that respect!). The beds were divided into individual plots maintained over the generations by different families.
Camas is said to have often been the only source of carbohydrate in the past for these coastal peoples who mostly ate fish and meat. Each year, the plots were cleared of stones and were burned to maintain the meadows. The bulbs were steamed in earth pits to convert the inulin to easier digested carbohydrates.