Monthly Archives: April 2013

Permaculture Plants: Parsley

Common Name: Parsley

Scientific Name: Petroselinum crispum
Family: Apiaceae (the Carrot or Parsley family)


The classic curly-leaf Parsley.

I was fortunate to live and travel for a few years in the Mediterranean and Middle East. It would be shocking  for the cultures in this part of the world to consider Parsley as nothing more than a green decoration on a plate, but sadly in the “modern” Western world, this is what has occured. I cannot think of a meal during all my travels and dining, whether at a restaraunt or in a home, where Parsley was not used as an herb, spice, or vegetable. Most of the species I outline in these profiles deal with perennial plants, but the reseeding nature of this biennial makes it act like a perennial. Combining its amazing variety in the kitchen with its use as a beneficial insect attractor and dynamic accumulator makes Parsley an ideal addition to the Forest Garden and Permaculture Design in general.


Petroselinum crispum

Native to the central Mediterranean region of Algeria, Italy, and Tunisia, Parsley it quickly spread and traveled with exploration, and it is now used extensively around the world.


  • The Parsley genus, Petroselinum, contains only two species: Common Garden Parsely (P. crispum) and Corn Parsley (P. segetum).
  • Garden Parsley can be subdivided into Leaf types and Root (Hamburg) types.
  • The two main groups of Leaf Parsely are curly-leaf and flat-leaf (Italian) Parsley.
  • Another lesser known type of Leaf Parsely has been cultivated for thick stems resembling celery.

Tabbouleh is one of my favorite dishes of all time!


Primary Uses:

  • Edible Leaves – Leaf Parsley can be curly or flat. While they can be used interchangably, the flat-leaf type is most often used as a vegetable. Curly-leaf is the classic garnish Parsley. Both can be used as an herb or spice equally well, but some say the flat-leaf type is more flavorful (it may just be how they were grown or the particular varieties I have sampled… and that is a lot… but I think I would agree that flat-leaf Parsely has more flavor). Parsley leaves with some of the stem can be eaten as is, maybe with a little lemon juice on it, as they do in Turkey. It can be chopped as the main ingredient in the classic Middle Eastern salad, tabbouleh. It can be bundled with other herbs and used to make stock, soups, and sauces in the classic French bouquet garni. It can be chopped and sprinkled on potatoes, rice, fish, poultry, meats, and vegetables as a minor or significant flavoring ingredient. And lastly, it can be used as a pathetic garnish.
  • Edible Stems – All Parsley stems are edible, but more tough/fibrous than the leaves. When chopped finely enough, they can be used in any Parsely application. While there is a variety which has been developed with thick, celery-like stems, I have never tried it. I am hoping to find some seeds for this in the future.
  • Edible Roots – Again, this is another variety I have not sampled. It is reported to have a unique “parsley-celery” flavor, and it is used most commonly in eastern and central European cuisine. May be used raw or cooked.

Secondary Uses:

  • General insect (especially bees) nectar plant
  • Wildlife food (seeds… mainly birds) in late Summer
  • Dynamic Accumulator – the large taproot can mine minerals from deeper in the soil

Yield: Variable. Depends on how aggressively it is harvested and the climate it is growing.
Harvesting: Anytime.
Storage: Ideally used fresh… I pick mine and use it within a few minutes of harvest. Can be dried, but requires very dry conditions as the leaves are so thin and easily rehydrate and stick together. Can be frozen and used later in soups, stews, sauces, etc. (consider freezing chopped leaves and a little bit of water in ice cube trays. Once frozen, they can be placed in a bag in the freezer and used as needed through the Winter.)


One of my Parsley plants. Notice the long taproot which enables it to mine deep for minerals.


USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-9
AHS Heat Zone: 9-1
Chill Requirement: No reliable information is available.

Plant Type: Herbaceous Plant
Leaf Type: Deciduous (not frost tender) – Biennial. Can keep growing in fairly cold weather, so if you live in a location with mild Winters, you may get to have year round production
Forest Garden Use: Herbaceous Layer, Underground Layer for Root varieties
Cultivars/Varieties: There are a number of varieties available.

Pollination: Self-fertile. Pollinated by insects.
Flowering: Summer

Life Span:
Two years as it is a biennial plant – it creates a deep root the first year, overwinters, and then puts out flowers the following year. However, once a patch is established, an individual’s life span is likely irrelevant. The patch will keep on growing indefinitely if not overharvested and allowed to flower and set seed.


The attractive and tiny flowers attracts a wide variety of beneficial insects.


Size: 1-2 feet (30-60 cm) tall and 8-12 inches (20-30 cm) wide
Roots: Leaf types have a long taproot (see photo above) and Root types resemble parsnip
Growth Rate: Fast


The root variety of Parsley… resembles parsnip in appearance only.


Light: Prefers full sun
Shade: Tolerates light shade
Moisture: Moist to wet soils.
pH: tolerates a wide range of soil conditions

Special Considerations for Growing:
I have found that high winds and dry conditions stunt the growth a bit, but other than that, it doesn’t appear to be too picky. Can be susceptable to fungal diseases if it stays too wet in the Winter; I have experienced this myself in the Azores’ wet, windy Winters.

Typically from seed. Germination takes 1-6 weeks depending on ambient temperatures.



  • There are some reports that very high consumption of Parsley can be toxic. There is not a lot of reliable information on this. I love Parsley… I mean, I think I may have an addiction issue with Parsley. I have yet to meet someone who eats as much Parsley as I, even when I lived in the Middle East. Back when I was working nights in the hospital I would make a very, very  large batch of tabbouleh. This would be my main food for a week at a time. I have had no ill effects. Either I am immune or more likely the amount for toxicity is so significant that it is very unlikely to occur. However, it does appear that if pregnant, large consumption may cause some isues.
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Hardiness Zones, Heat Zones, and Sunset Climate Zones

The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) has been producing a Hardiness Zone Map for many years. This map divides the U.S. into Zones 1 through 10 based on minimum temperatures (1 being the coldest and 10 being the warmest). A plant is placed into one of these Hardiness Zones based upon the lowest temperature it can withstand. Over the years, the concept of Hardiness Zones have been applied to all areas in the world. The most recent USDA Hardiness Zone Map is from 2012 (see photo above) and can be searched on their site here.


2006 National Arbor Day Foundation Hardiness Zone Map

Also, through work from the American Horticulture Society, the Arbor Day Foundation has created the 2006 Hardiness Zone Map. This takes into account the warmer temperatures the U.S. has been experiencing over the last decade. If you are interested in seeing the changes, the Arbor Day Foundation has a great animation on this page. Just click the Play button.

Probably the most useful site for locating your Hardiness Zone is located here. Just enter your zip code and your Hardiness Zone will be shown.

The benefit of Hardiness Zones is that it provides a starting point for planning which plants can winter-over where you live. However, there are a few drawbacks to the Hardiness Zone Map. It does not consider day length (changes considerably the further from the equator you go), snow cover (moderates soil freezing and insulates roots), humidity, frost, or soil moisture. Probably the biggest drawback is that it does not consider how warm your summer will be. The classic example is comparing the Shetland Islands north of Scotland and southern Alabama. Both are listed as bewteen Hardiness Zone 8-9. However, the Shetland Islands are sub-artic and southern Alabama is sub-tropical. There are almost no plants that can grow in both places.


American Horticultural Society Plant Heat Zone Map
…no longer available to the general public!

The variations in summer heat around the globe is what prompted the American Horticultural Society to create their Plant Heat Zone Map. The AHS Plant Heat Zones are listed from 1 through 12. The zones are based on the average number of days per year that the temperature will rise above 86 degrees F (30 C) as this is the temperature above which plants start to show heat stress. This is a great tool to augment the Hardiness Zones in your planning. You used to be able to download the map and search your zip code to find your Heat Zone. The AHS has recently removed those options. Not sure why, but I am not happy about it.


Sunset Climate Zone Map

The last map that I want to share was produced by Sunset Magazine. This company, which has a large gardening focus and has been around since 1898, divided the U.S. into 45 Climate Zones. These zones are based on Latitude, Elevation, Ocean Influence, Continental Air Influence, Mountains, Hills, Valleys, and Microclimates. It is a much more ambitious undertaking.

Here is a searchable map to find your Sunset Climate Zone, but I prefer going to the Sunset website and selecting the U.S. region here, as it provides a map as well as information on that growing region. Sunset also provides a pretty substantial searchable plant database for their Climate Zones on this page.

Combining Hardiness Zones, AHS Plant Heat Zones, and Sunset Zones, you will be able to more confidently chose plants that are well suited to your local conditions. These are great tools for planning your Permaculture System.

Here is a link to my article on Hardiness Zones for the World.

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Practicing Permaculture Principle One… Observation

I have written previously about Permaculture Principles. Since discovering Permaculture years ago, I have slowly been trying to put these principles into practice in my day to day life and thinking. If you are new to this site, you will know that I do not say this in some esoteric or pseudo-religious manner. Permaculture is a practical science, and its practice has actual implications. Understanding what these implications are and how to achieve them is what the science of Permaculture is all about. Ultimately, it strengthens resiliency in our day to day existence, and it is to this end that I am most drawn.

Principle One states to Observe and Interact. The first part of Principle One, observe, is the starting point to understanding pretty much everything else about Permaculture. Observation, through the lens of Permaculture, allows us to critically examine the world around us, to see systems. It is the foundation allowing us to design new systems, because it is from these observations, i.e. what we have seen, that we are able to create new systems in the first place.

Another way of saying this is that Permaculture Design is really an amalgamation of multiple systems which we have observed in nature in one form or another (or from other human-made designs, which were themselves originally created through observation).

So in the vein of practicing what I preach, I realized that it has been quite some time since I put the first part of Principle One into overt practice. Really, I am always trying to observe. I am always trying to understand the world around me. Why is that plant growing there? Why is that plant doing so well? Why is that plant about to die? Why are the hills shaped just that way? Why is the fog drifting in that direction? Why is that cow lying down in that spot when all the others are lying down in another?

This is just a scratch at the surface of the thoughts that run through my head every day. I am actively trying to observe all the time. However, it has been too long since I have sat down and observed my own garden. So I did it today.

I went out and laid down in my garden. Grass under me and sky above me, I just relaxed in the warm sun and cool ocean breeze. I was looking up at Bird of Paradise and Hibiscus to my right, and Fava Beans, Garlic, Rosemary, and Tomato and Corn seedlings in one of my garden beds to my left. At my head was my one Century Plant (Agave americana marginata) and a large bed of Aloe with wild Azorean Blackberry canes snaking their way between the succulents. I could hear the Sparrows chirping non-stop and the Ocean crashing on the volcanic rocks about a hundred yards (90 meters) away. I could smell that great scent of clean soil and also fresh mint as my dog stepped on some runners growing along the edge of the shrub line.

I almost fell asleep, but then my dog decided to lift his leg and urinate about five feet from my head. Inner tranquility is rather diminished in the presence of highly odiferous dog urine. Oh well, it was time to get up and get some other things done.

For this exercise, I spent twenty minutes just taking it in and resting. I can’t remember the last time I did this. To be honest, I didn’t make any revolutionary observations, but I was rejuvenated. It was worth it for that alone. I will try to make this a more regular habit from now on. Maybe I will stumble upon something life changing. Probably I will just get to know my little garden better, or perhaps I will just get a little much needed, often neglected rest.

But next time, I’ll lock the dog out of the garden first.


Chilling Requirements for Plants


An apple tree in the snow.

As we are entering the hottest part of the year (in the northern hemisphere), I thought I would discuss a much cooler topic… Chilling Requirements for Plants.


There are certain plants that require cold temperatures to produce fruit. This is why, for example, apples are not grown much in Florida. Apple trees require a minimum number of hours below a certain temperature, and Florida just doesn’t get cold enough for long enough. Now there are always exceptions to the rule, and certain apple varieties have been developed to grow in warmer temperatures, so if you live in southern California, you are not without hope for growing apples. However, we need to be aware of what our chilling hours are and what our plants need to fruit reliably.


Chilling Requirement is a term used to describe the idea that a plant needs a period of cold to blossom. The requirement is usually expressed with the interchangeable terms Chilling Units orChilling Hours. One unit or hour is equal to one hour at or below the chilling temperature. Some plants have a Chilling Temperature that is below freezing, some others may need to be under 45 F (7 C), and others only need to be under 60 F (16 C) for example. Every plant has a certain chilling temperature. If a plant does not obtain its required chilling hours it either may not flower at all or will flower much less and therefore produce a lot less fruit.


Now, there are two stages of chilling. I always consider the first stage of chilling to be like a baseball pitcher’s windup. The first stage is reversible. As the season starts to cool down, the plant is getting ready for its period of dormancy. If the temperature warms up for a few days or a week or so, then the plant gears down from its dormancy preparation. It’s like the pitcher stepping back off the mound. It’s a do-over. No damage is done.


The second stage of chilling is like the pitch. It is the point of no return. It is irreversible. At some point (a certain temperature or a certain temperature for a specific amount of time), and this is very difficult to tell, a plant has committed itself to dormancy. Even if things warm up, the plant will remain dormant until other triggers cause it to break dormancy. If the temperatures are low enough for long enough throughout the winter, then the plant will be able to blossom well in the spring. If it is not a very cold winter, or if we have a plant that should be growing in a colder climate, then we may get little or even no flowering… and then our fruiting is poor.


It is important to know that the Chilling Hours do not need to be consecutive. Typically, the plant just needs cumulative Chilling Hours. We may have nightly temperatures that drop below the required threshold for our plant, but our days warm up above that temperature. If we have enough nights doing that, then that may be enough for most plants.


On the flip side, some plants have hair triggers to break out of dormancy. It the temperatures rise too high for too long, let’s say in an uncommon warm spell in the late winter, then a plant will wake from dormancy and may start production of blossoms. When temperatures drop again, the new growth may be damaged or killed. This is what causes concerns about late frosts or early blooming plants in a garden.


So how does this affect us and our plants on a day to day basis? All it means is that we need to select plants that are suited to our climate. That’s it.


We need to find out what our Chilling Hours/Units are for our area and then select plants that fall within or under our cut-off. I could only find one map that provided general chilling hours for the U.S. I did find a number of local state maps, but you will have to do a little looking on your own to find your specific local information. Most plant sellers will have this information for you if it is important for the species you are looking to purchase.


Plants that have a Chilling Requirement to produce blossom well

  • Pretty much all fruit that grows in a Temperate Climate (Apples, Blueberries, Cherries, Grapes, Peach, Pears, Plums, Strawberries, and many, many more)
  • Oranges and other citrus (although they don’t really go completely dormant, the chill produces more flowers and better tasting fruit)
  • Many vegetables need some chill to produce seeds (Cabbage, Carrots, Celery, Sugar Beet, and many more)
  • Almost all Bulb Plants
  • Many seeds need a period of cold to sprout.


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Modern Agriculture Marketing Lies



I am sure this quick post will upset some people on both sides of the argument, but I have been rather disturbed as of late about how modern agriculture is representing itself. There has recently been a concerted effort on the part of large-scale agribusinesses in the U.S. to reinvent themselves. I think it is because they are starting to get exposed for what they do. Now let me be clear before I get too far into this. I eat meat. I believe there is overwhelming evidence to support that humans are omnivores (not herbivores and not carnivores). We have been designed to eat meat as well as vegetable matter. However, the meat that humans ate thousands of years ago is nothing like the meat you would buy in the average grocery store today. Again, there is overwhelming evidence to support the drastic difference between “modern”, mass-produced meat sent to finishing lots and meat from animals pastured raised their whole life. The former meat is an unhealthy food product which we should avoid if possible. The latter is a healthy part of a human’s diet. But again, this is not my argument today.

What I am upset about is how these large corporations think we are so stupid. Just look at the two photos at the top of this article. These were taken from, a website from the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. By looking at these beautiful photos, one would like to think that most cattle in the US were raised in lush pastures and cared for as part of the family. Now compare this to these fairly tame photos of modern feedlots below…


Note the ONLY green in this photo is on the outer side of the fence where the cattle are not.


Unfortunately, cattle sleeping in piles of their own manure is a common site in the modern feedlot… ever see a wild animal do this?



All I am saying to these corporations is please don’t think we will be this easily fooled. You can put a few nice photos taken in the cattle’s early life and pretend that this is how they will live forever, but we know where they end up. We know how they are treated. We are not stupid. We are not going to ignore this anymore.

Permaculture teaches us to use nature as a model for our agricultural systems. Where in the world do you see wild animals sleeping in their own excrement? Where do you see wild herbivorous ruminants choosing to live in filth instead of lush pastures? The obvious answer is that you don’t. So then why do we continue to do this? There are a number of reasons, and yet again, this is not my argument for today. But we don’t have to settle for the lies, and we don’t have to leave thinking we have no other choice. Fortunately, there are a growing number of people who are treating their animals in a healthy, humane, natural way from birth to death… yes, even a death for us. It is the way of the natural world. It is the way of omnivores, if you chose to embrace our design.

So I will leave you with one last image. This is a photo take on Joel Salatin’s farm. These are his cattle, and this is how they live their lives. What a great alternative. Seek out those who are treating their cattle with the respect they deserve and allowing them to live a life that is the way nature intended.


Happy Cattle!



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New Geoff Lawton Video!

If you have followed this site for any length of time, you should be very familiar with Geoff Lawton. He was asked to run the Permaculture Research Institute in Australia when Bill Mollison, the founder of Permaculture, stepped down from day-to-day operations. What a brilliant choice! Geoff has been able to expose millions of people to Permaculture through his travels and innovation. His new website is just another step in that direction. You need to sign-up at his site, and you will get access to some amazing videos. His most recent video is a documentation of how he took 5 acres and turned it in to a lush, productive, food-producing homestead. Signing up doesn’t cost a thing, and I haven’t received any spam from this site. I should also state that I am just a big fan… I don’t get referral kick-backs or anything. I highly recommend this site and these videos!

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    Get Your Kids in the Natural World! – Part 1: Get them in the garden!

Get Your Kids in the Natural World! – Part 1: Get them in the garden!

I have written previously about how important it is to get children into the garden… into nature in general. I want to share a few photos and stories of how I do that now. But first I really want to make a point that it doesn’t have to be your own biological kids you teach about the natural world. All kids deserve to know about it, to experience it. My wife and I dealt with infertility and were married for 10 years before we welcomed our first child into our home, so I know that not all people reading this will have a son or daughter to teach. But you probably have a niece or a nephew or a neighbor’s kid. Get them into the garden. Get them into nature. You will never regret it!


My daughter deciding which beet needs to be picked.

This first photo series is of my almost 2 year old daughter. She is more into plants and gardening at a younger age than either of her older brothers (so far). She has spent hours with me plucking and eating cherry tomatoes, planting seeds (she loves to taste test the distinctly colored Hidatsa Shield and Calypso beans… yeah, we are working on that!), and harvesting any produce she can.


Got one!


uhhh… now what?

Later that week, I was spreading some old straw as mulch around my newly planted tomato and pepper seedlings. A blur of brown fur clued me in that a mouse had taken up residence in my old garbage can full of straw. I hadn’t opened it in months. Well, sure enough, after a few minutes of removing straw and spreading it in my garden, I uncovered a bunch of newborn mice.


Five “pinkies” from the garden straw pile… their eyes were not yet opened.

Not one to let an experience like this pass, I called the kids together and showed them what I had found. They were ecstatic. They were giggling and laughing. Asking question after question before I could even answer the first one. There was no fear. No shivers. Just interest and awe. If only we as adults could maintain this wonder.


The kids loved seeing the baby mice!

After about five minutes of letting the kids see the mice, gently touch them (and then have mom help them wash their hands!), I put the mice in a pile of straw. I finished my mulching work, and I placed them back in the original pile and lightly covered them up again. The next morning they were gone. Did the mom come back and move them? Did the mom come back, smell human scent, and kill them all? Did a predator come by and eat them (I had a lesser weasel living in one corner of my garden last year)? I have no idea. We don’t have much of a mouse problem inside our house. We had one mouse this Winter which my dog quickly dispatched. In the garden, I see mice as a welcome part of a healthy ecosystem. If my disturbance of them while I was going about normal garden work interfered too much in their lives, I honestly feel a little bad. But not that much. It is part of life. Ours and theirs. I do think that the few minutes my kids were able to watch these tiny creatures was a treasure.

Finally, and with no photos, I will share how I spent some time planting seedlings with my sons and their friends. I really have no idea how much experience these two boys have had in a garden, but they got to plant some seedlings with my sons and their dad. I know which ones they planted, so each time they come over, I ask them to check on their plants. Who knows what seeds will be planted in them, no pun intended. I do think that we are connected to this Earth in a way that many of us have forgot. Deep down, there is a longing in all of us to be a part of the natural world. I just think it is buried deeper in some than in others. Is this a spiritual thing? Maybe. I am not really sure. As a Christian, I read about the perfection in the Garden of Eden, but I also know of the essence of nature that runs in almost all world religions. It makes me think that there is something intrinsically “right” about humans working with nature instead of against it. I guess this is why I am so passionate about Permaculture. This is why I am so passionate about getting kids back in the garden and back in nature.


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  • All photos are mine. Please ask if you would like to use them. Thanks!


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    Happy Earth Day – The New TCPermaculture Site is Live!!!!!

Happy Earth Day – The New TCPermaculture Site is Live!!!!!

The new Temperate Climate Permaculture site is live! I really didn’t plan this to happen on Earth Day, but it is pretty cool that it did!

I still have some work to do, but I wanted to get it up as soon as was reasonable. Please let me know if you see any significant problems or have any questions (go to the Contact Page).

Go ahead and Subscribe, so I can start sending you email updates. And please share this with anyone who has an interest in Permaculture (see Share This Story below).

We’ve stepped up to a new level, and I am really excited!



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What I am Brewing: Bitter American Revolution

Name: Bitter American Revolution


History of this beer: English Bitter – the term “bitter” is just an older English term for “pale ale”. There is a wide variety of beers that fall under this category. Bitters can be light gold to dark amber. They can have a low 3% alcohol (aka “boys bitters”) and has high as 7% alcohol (aka “strong bitter” or “premium bitter”). The term “bitter” was used to differentiate these beers from the less hopped porters and mild ales in England.



  • 3.3 lbs – Midwest Liquid Malt Extract Gold
  • 1.0 lb – Breiss DME Golden Light
  • 1/2 lb – Grains: Carapils
  • 1/2 lb – Grains: Caramel 10L
  • 2.0 oz – Hops: Chinook Pellets (AA 11.8%), boiling hops
  • 1.0 oz – Hops: Willamette, (AA 5.9%), finishing hops
  • Yeast – Safale S-04



  • Simmer crushed grains in 6 gallons of water at 155 degrees F for 30 minutes.
  • Remove grains.
  • Bring to boil.
  • Add malt extracts, bring to a boil.
  • Add Boiling Hops.
  • Boil for 60 minutes.
  • Add Finishing Hops for last 3 minutes of boil.
  • Transfer to a 5 gallon carboy.
  • Add yeast when cool (below 75 degrees F).
  • Ferment, rack, prime with 3/4 cup corn sugar, bottle, age, drink!


Notes: Most of the beers I have been making lately have been darker, lightly-hopped beers. I got the hankering for a good English Brown or Bitter. But since I can never just let things be without some tinkering, I decided to make a really hopped English Bitter. I had received some great hops from my brother-in-law, who lives in Portland, and an idea started to formulate. What if I took a basic English Bitter recipe and gave it some intense hop flavor and aroma using some classic American hops? Well, that is how the American Bitter Revolution came to be. It is currently bubbling away in my garage, so it will still be a few weeks before I can tell you if my creative experiment was a success. Stay tuned!



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Permaculture Plants: Camas

Common Name: Camas, Quamash, Indian Hyacinth, Wild Hyacinth

Scientific Name: Camassia species

Family: Asparagaceae (the Asparagus family) formerly in Hyacinthaceae (the Hyacinth family) which is now considered the subfamily Scilloideae under the Asparagaceae family

Common Species (well actually all of them, since there are only six):

  • Prairie Camas (Camassia angusta)
  • Cussick’s Camas (Camassia cusickii) – mostly occurs in eastern Oregon, but can be found native across North America… not a favored food plant
  • Howell’s Camas (Camassia howellii)
  • Large Camas, Great Camas (Camassia leichtlinii) – occurs west of the Cascade Mountains from British Columbia to the Sierra Nevada
  • Quamash, Indian Camas, Small Camas (Camassia quamash) – the primary food species
  • Atlantic Camas, Bear grass (Camassia scilloides) – occurs in eastern North America. From Maryland to Georgia and west to Texas and Wisconsin.

A white-flowered Camas… a beautiful plant!


This North American native plant is most commonly known today as a showy ornamental, but traditionally this bulb was eaten. Camas also attracts beneficial insects and requires almost no maintenance. This was a staple food for Native Americans. While it is unlikely to be used as a staple today, it is a great addition to the Forest Garden and is perfect in the suburbs as an edible landscape plant.



Quamash, Indian Camas, Small Camas (Camassia quamash)


Native and widespread in the western United States and Canada, this was a very important food source for Native Americans and early American settlers. As white settlers brought cattle and swine to the area, many of the very large, natural camas prairies were destroyed. Fortunately, there are a number of Camas prairies and marshes that still exist.



  • Camas was such in important food source for Native Americans in the west, that there are a number of cities and counties named for it in Washington and Idaho.
  • The flowers can range from white to pale lilac to deep purple or blue-violet.



A field of Camas… amazing.


Cook Camas… it takes a loooong time to do it right.

Click here for some a few recipes for cooking Camas bulbs.



Primary Uses:

  • Edible Bulbs – Although I have never tried it, there are reports that Camas bulbs are edible raw, but they are said to have a gummy texture. Typically, the bulbs are roasted or boiled for a long time. In traditional use, the bulbs were pit-roasted for up to 2 days. Similar to sweet potatoes or chestnuts in flavor.
  • Flour – cooked bulbs can be dried and then pounded into flour. This flour can be added to cereal flours for bread making. The flour can be used as a thickening agent in soups, stews, and sauces.
  • Molasses – there are a few reports of Native Americans boiling the bulbs down to make molasses


Secondary Uses:

  • General insect (especially bees) nectar plant
  • Ornamental Plant


Yield: Variable, older plants have larger bulbs. Improved varieties also have larger bulbs.

Harvesting: Bulbs can likely be harvested whenever desired. One report states they are best when harvested in early summer. Another states Autumn through Spring. Obviously, this is not a plant that is commonly eaten enough to have consensus on this type of information.

Storage: Use within a few days fresh. Can be stored for many months if dried – some sources state to dry it as you would any bulb (like garlic), and other sources state it can be dried after being cooked, probably in an oven or dehydrator.



Camas flowers attract beneficial insects… like honey bees!


USDA Hardiness Zone: Most sources state only Zone 4, but it is likely Zone 3-8

AHS Heat Zone: 8-1

Chill Requirement: Likely considering where this plant originates, but no reliable information is available.


Plant Type: Small Herbaceous Plant

Leaf Type: Deciduous

Forest Garden Use: Underground Layer, Herbaceous Layer

Cultivars/Varieties: There are a number of varieties available for this plant, but they have almost all been developed for their flowers. Not a lot of work has been done with this plant… well, it is more accurate to say that only a few people have ever put a lot of work into developing this plant for food.


Pollination: Self-fertile

Flowering: Late Spring to early Summer (May-June)


Life Span:

No good information available as we typically harvest bulbs and eat them. Considering that the plants can be propagated from bulb division, an individual’s life span is likely irrelevant.



Camas bulbs are medium-sized (compared to other bulbed species).


Size: 1-2.5 feet (30-76 cm) tall and 8-12 inches (20-30 cm) wide

Roots: Medium-sized bulb

Growth Rate: Fast



Meadows with moist soils are right where Camas feel at home.


Light: Prefers full sun

Shade: Tolerates light shade

Moisture: Moist to wet soils. Can tolerate very wet Winter soils if allowed to dry in the Summer.

pH: 5.1-7.5 (tolerates a wide range of soil conditions)


Special Considerations for Growing:

Camas prefers moist soils. Other than that, it doesn’t appear to be too picky.



Typically from bulb divisions in Autumn after the leaves have withered. Can be propagated by seed – seed best sown in place in Autumn. Seeds likely need about 4 weeks of cold stratification. Germination can take place in 1-6 months… this is typical for a “wild” plant to ensure continuation of the species.


Maintenance: Minimal.



  • As with many wild tubers, Camas may have a high amount of inulin. This natural fiber is not digestible by humans. If not a regular part of the diet, large amounts of inulin can cause lots of gas and bloating. It is best to gradually increase the amount of inulin-containing foods in your diet.
  • There are a few species of plant that live in the same areas at Camas which are toxic to humans. These plants, commonly known as Deathcamas, are from at least four different genera, and they all resemble Camas and share the same habitat. It is best not to collect from the wild unless with an expert. Most people just purchase bulbs from a reputable dealer to get a patch growing.



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