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Ron Harland
PO Box 5
Rickreall, OR 97371

Cooking with Camas


The camas bulb has been compared to an onion in appearance, but when cooked, the sweet flavor more closely resembles a sweet chestnut.  Most commonly, camas bulbs are slow baked, but when dried and made into a powder, the camas can be used as a thickening agent in stews or added to cereal flours in breads and cakes. 

The traditional method for cooking camas bulbs was in an earthen oven, where they are pit cooked for a period of  10-36 hours (click here for more information on this process).  It is believed that the extended cooking time is required to maximize the conversion of the inulin found in camas to fructose.  More recently, camas bulbs have also been cooked via stovetop methods.  Camas bulbs can be harvested virtually any time of the year, but are best in the early summer.

Documented Native American food uses for camas:*

  • Bulbs were pit roasted and made into loaves or little camas cakes
  • Bulbs were pit roasted and boiled with meat
  • Bulbs were smashed, pressed together like cheese and boiled in a stew with salmon
  • Bulbs were boiled to make a sweet, hot beverage
  • Bulbs were boiled with flour (sometimes butter) and eaten as thick gravy
  • Bulbs were steamed or boiled, dipped in dogfish or whale oil and eaten

Do you have a food use or recipe for camas? Please send us your ideas!

*Source: University of Michigan, Native American Ethnobotany � A database of foods, drugs, dyes and fibers of Native American Peoples, derived from plants.


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