This is the famous hopniss of New Jersey Indians, the saagaban of the Micmacs, openauk of Virginia tribes, scherzo of the Carolinas, taux of the Osages, and modo of the Sioux, under one or other of which names it is frequently met by students of our early annals. "In 1654 tnc town laws of Southampton, Mass., ordained that if an Indian dug ground-nuts on land occupied by the English, he was to be set in the stocks, and for a second offence, to be whipped." The Pilgrims, during their first winter, lived on these roots.
The tubers vary from the size of cherries to that of a hen's egg, or larger. They grow in strings of perhaps 40 together, resembling common potatoes in shape, taste, and odor. When boiled they are quite palatable and wholesome. The seeds in the pod can be prepared like common peas.
The root of this plant is so acrid when raw that, if one but touch the tip of his tongue to it, in a few seconds that unlucky member will sting as if touched to a nettle. Yet it was a favorite bread-root of the Indians. I have found bulbs as much as 11 inches in circumference and weighing half a pound.
Some writers state that the acridity of the root is destroyed by boiling, while others recommend baking. Neither alone will do. The bulb may be boiled for two hours, or baked as long, and, while the outer portion will have a characteristically pleasant flavor, half potato, half chestnut, the inner part will still be as uneatable as a spoonful of red pepper. The root should either be roasted or boiled, then peeled, dried, and pounded in a mortar, or otherwise reduced to flour. Then if it is heated again, or let stand for a day or two, it becomes bland and wholesome, having been reduced to a starchy substance resembling arrowroot. Even if the fresh root is only grated finely and let stand exposed to air until it is thoroughly dry, the acridity will have evaporated with the juice.
The roots may be preserved for a year by storing in damp sand.
It is said that the Indians also cooked and ate the berries.
Lilium superbum. Meadows and marshes. Me. to Minn., south to N. C and Tenn. July-Aug.
Canada Lily. Lilium Canadense. Swamps, meadows and fields. Nova Scotia to Minn., south to Ga., Ala., Mo., June-July.
"Both of these lilies have fleshy, edible bulbs. When green they look and taste somewhat like raw green corn on the ear. The Indians use them, instead of flour, to thicken stews, etc." (Thoreau).
Spatter-dock. Nymphaea advena (Nuphar ad.). Ponds and slow streams. Nova Scotia to Rocky Mts., south to Fla., Texas, Utah. Apr.-Sep.
The roots, wdrich are one or two feet long, grow four or five feet under water, and Indian women dive for them. They are very porous, slightly sweet, and glutinous. Generally boiled with wild fowl, but often roasted separately. Muskrats store large quantities for winter use, and their houses are frequently robbed by the Indians. The pulverized seeds of the plant are made into bread or gruel, or parched and eaten like popcorn.
Wankapin or Yoncopin. Water Chinquapin. Nelumbo lutea. Ponds and swamps. Locally east from Ontario to Fla.. abundant west to Mich., Okla., La. July-Aug.
Tubers of root somewhat resemble sweet potatoes, and are little inferior to them when well boiled. A highly prized food of the Indians. The green and succulent half-ripe seed-pods are delicate and nutritious. From the sweet, mealy seeds, which resemble hazel nuts, the Indians made bread, soups, etc. The "nuts" were first steeped in water, and then parched in sand to easily extricate the kernels. These were mixed with fat and made into a palatable soup, or were ground into flour and baked. Frequently they were parched without steeping, and the kernels eaten thus.
Orchis spectabilis. Rich woods. New Brunsw. to Minn,, south to Ga., Ky., Neb. Apr.-June.
"One of the orchids that springs from a tuberous root, and as such finds favor with the country people [of the South] in the preparation of a highly nourishing food for children." (Lounsberry).
Wild peanut. Falcata comosa (Glycine comosa). Moist thickets. New Brunsw. to Fla., west to Lake Superior, Neb., La. Aug-Sep.
"The underground pod has been cultivated as a vegetable." (Porcher).
Prairie turnip. Indian or Missouri Breadroot. The pomme blanche of the voyageurs. Psoralea Esculenta. Prairies. Manitoba and N. Dak. to Texas. June.
The farinaceous tuber, generally the size of a hen's egg, has a thick, leathery envelope, _ easily separable from the smooth internal parts, which become friable when dry and are readily pulverized, affording a light, starchy flour, with sweetish, turniplike taste. Often sliced and dried by the Indians for winter use. Palatable in any form.
Zizania aquatica. Swamps. New Brunsw. to Manitoba, south to Fla., La., Texas. June-Oct.
The chief farinaceous food of probably 30,000 of our northern Indians, and now on the market as a breakfast food. The harvesting is usually done by two persons working together, one propelling the canoe, and the one in the stern gently pulling the plants over the canoe and beating off the ripe seed with two sticks. The seed, when gathered, is spread out for a few hours to dry, and is then parched in a kettle over a slow fire for half an hour to an hour, meanwhile being evenly and constantly stirred. It is then spread out to cool. After this it is hulled by putting about a bushel of the seed into a hole in the ground, lined with staves or burnt clay, and beating or punching it with heavy sticks. The grains and hulls are separated by tossing the mixture into the wind from baskets. The grain will keep indefinitely.