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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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camas Camassia quamash, a member of the lily family belonging to the western USA, whose edible bulbs were a staple food for the natives of the Pacific north-west. Camas was observed by early explorers to grow in great abundance, and still does, although European settlers ploughed many camas fields up in favour of more familiar crops.

The camas plant takes several years to bloom, but its bulb was not harvested until the blue flowers appeared. This was partly because there are other types of camas belonging to the genus Zigadenius, which are highly poisonous. Their flowers are cream (or occasionally green), in contrast to the blue (or occasionally white or pink) ones of the edible kind.