Soap Root

at 12:35 AM

There is a plant that the native California Indians use that really reminds me of that old Saturday Night Live commercial from years ago.

"Try New Shimmer! It is a dessert topping. No it's not it is a floor wax, a dessert topping, no a floor wax...whoops!! Clumsy me!! WOW.  Look at that shine and you know it tastes so good too!"

Wavy leaved soap root, a member of the lily family, is quite common in grasslands and open woodlands throughout northern California. The leaves are long and strap-like with curly margins. The scientific name is Chlorogalum pomeridianum. The latter name means "flowers that open in the late afternoon," also called vespertine flowers (like the vesper choir). Mostly bumblebees pollinate them.

As the common name indicates you can make soap from the root. Crush the bulb, mix with water and presto -- lather. This lather not only cleaned your hands and washed your hair, but also was used to catch fish! These same suds could be put into slow moving streams where it interfered with oxygen transport across the gill membranes and stupefied the fish. They would float up to the surface and be easily collected. The fibrous hairs that surround the bulb were made into brushes and combs. There was even glue made from the bulb that attached feathers to arrows. The bulb itself was slow roasted and eaten. Poultices made from the bulb relieved the pain from sores and skin irritations from poison oak and was said to cure rheumatism. The young leaves could be eaten raw and the older tougher leaves were used to wrap acorn mush into so it could be cooked directly on the fire.

"Try new soap root. It is a fish poison. No, it's a roasted vegetable. It is a hairbrush. No, it's glue. Wow, this fish tastes good. My hair is so clean, my aches and pains gone, my feathers never fall off now. Yes, new Soap Root it is everything you've always wanted in one California wild plant."

Sponsored

This is Michael Ellis with a Perspective.

Sponsored

Michael Ellis is a naturalist who leads trips throughout the world.  He lives in Santa Rosa.

Volume
KQED Live
Live Stream
Log In ToPledge-Free Stream
LATEST NEWSCAST
KQED
NPR
Live Stream information currently unavailable.
Share
LATEST NEWSCAST
KQED
NPR
KQED Live

Live Stream

Live Stream information currently unavailable.