|Lomatium californicum. Also called Ich-nish|
Getting ready for this blog I thought about wide variety of native plants and the stories connected with them.
Then the warm weather turned cold and my camera came out. Our mountain tops were shrouded in clouds and snow furies. I knew the plant and the story that needed to be shared.
I gather many plants with my family through the year, but spring time is special. It's not only Ich-nish (Ick niche) Season but it's also Coyote Weather, and the Story of Coyote and Coyote Weather is told in my family as it has been told for thousands of years.
In the Shasta Language Lomatium californicum is called Ich-nish.
It's a species of plant related to the carrot and the parsnip which is known by the common names California rock parsnip, celery weed, and California lomatium. This plant is native to California and Oregon, where it is found in low elevation mountains and hills. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lomatium_
|Gathering among the Oak trees|
As with all wild plants, please know what you are picking and eating. Most plants in the carrot/celery family are extremely toxic. There is no such thing as too much caution. I recommend if you are in Northern California/ Southern Oregon and do decide to gather this plant that you go with someone knowledgeable.
Ichnish is used by several tribes in the Southern Oregon/Northern California area. Some use the root as a part of their traditional medicine and religious ceremonies. It can be used for smudge and many Shasta people use it to protect their homes from evil spirits.
I'll focus on the edible aspects of the plant.
|Bags of Ichnish Spring 2015|
For most people it is simply a delicious herbal seasoning and only the leaf is used. It is a great addition to common seasonings like pepper and garlic. It tastes somewhere between celery tops and cilantro with a twist. The older the plants the hotter the leaves. I often add it to soups, stews, and any roasted meat. it also spices up deviled eggs, omelets and salads. It grows only in the spring and is only available for a few weeks so gathering and drying enough to last our family for the year is important.
|Book By Mary Carpelan|
When the late winter gets warm and the Ichnish starts to grow we watch the mountains for the distinct green color of the growing Ichnish.
I'm going to share a Shasta Legend that has been handed down for many many generations. This story takes place during the 3 days of the spring equinox and the Sun and all the landmarks in this story line up perfectly on a map for those 3 days.
My sister-in-law, Mary Carpelan wrote and illustrated this ancient family story in a children's book called Coyote Fights the Sun (currently out of print)
I'm using common names for places and please forgive some of the photos. It's hard to get clear pictures without getting power lines, houses and other modern items in the shots.
The Shasta Legend: Coyote Fights the Sun
Winter was turning to spring and Coyote thought of eating fresh Ichnish. He was foolish and decided that the food they had stored to get through winter was no longer good enough. He had his daughters throw it out.
He looked outside and saw that the skies were clear. Calling his two daughters he told them to go up the mountain (Quartz Hill) and pick some Ichnish.
His daughters were hungry too. They went up the mountain to gather in the Ichnish patch. It was growing tall and they began to fill their bags quickly so they could get home before dark. The kept their eyes on their work and didn't pay attention to the weather.
They didn't notice that the clouds started coming over the Marble Mountains and came across Quartz Valley.
The storm rolled up the ridges and covered Quartz Hill. Soon there was a terrible storm and several feet of snow covered the hill. Coyote's daughters realized too late that the sun was gone and they were trapped.
When the storm was over and Coyote was able to climb Quartz Hill he found that his daughters had died in the storm. He was very angry. He blamed the Sun for going away and allowing the storm to take his daughters. He vowed to kill the Sun. He took his bows and arrows and climbed up on Quartz Hill to the Ichnish patch. He waited all night for the Sun to come up, but the Sun came up across Oro Fino over Chapparal Hill!
Still angry Coyote walked all day and climbed to the top of Chapparal Hill. The next morning the sun came up over Duzel Rock.
Now Coyote was really mad. The sun was teasing him. He walked all day and climbed to the top of Duzel Rock and waited for the sun to rise. But the sun came up over the Lime Stone Bluffs in Shasta Valley.
Again he walked all day to the Lime Stone Bluffs. He was determined to kill the Sun.
The next morning the Sun was now across the valley and came up behind Mount Shasta. Coyote looked down the bluffs and saw a big lake between him and Mt. Shasta. He dove down to swim across and get ready for the next morning. But the lake was really fog. Down he tumbled until he landed on a rocky ridge and was turned to stone.
Coyote is still standing on the ridge south of Gazelle California.
He waits each morning hoping to get his chance to kill the Sun.
So when Sun shines brightly in February and March we don't go up the mountain to look for Ichnish. We call it Coyote Weather because Coyote is a trickster and the warm weather is not Spring. It is a false Spring that goes away as the late March and early April snowstorms come over the Marble Mountains and cross Quartz Valley to wrap our Ichnish patch on Quartz Hill in cold and ice and snow.
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