Spring Beauty/Indian Potato
Updated: Dec 28, 2021
Identification: small, short perennial. Grows in moist soil of grasslands, meadows, steppes, woodlands, open forest, and avalanche slopes. Found in montane to alpine regions.
Root storage: globose corm. Brownskinned and white inside.
Stems: erect, slender, sometimes red in color.
Leaves: basal, opposite, lanceolate.
Flowers: single flowers, 2-3 per plant. Petals are white sometimes with faint pink lines.
Grateful harvest: Spring Beauty is a unique plant that can be harvested from a range of altitudes effectively for many tribal nations on the Interior Plateau. Initially they grow along valley bottoms and sidehills and are harvested from May to June. But the same types of plants can be found at various upper elevation sites after the initial harvesting period. The plant prefers warm slopes where snow accumulates and it flowers shortly after snow melts. I find that most Spring Beauty’s grow well alongside Glacier Lilies (Erythronium grandiform).
Cultural components: Despite the common accepted tradition of the Buttercup being the first plant to emerge in the spring, the Spring Beauty precedes it. Traditionally, many Salish people recognized the plant as a signifier that winter was over. However, due to their small size, Spring Beauty is hard to find in the spring thaw. This could be the reason why the Buttercup is seen as a signifier of spring. The plants are easily identified through their flowers. The "potatoes" could be eaten just as we eat regular potatoes (just on a very small scale!) Traditionally Spring Beauty's were boiled, or steamed in earth pits. They can be mashed or eaten in their spherical form.
Sustainability: In some places, Spring Beauty's are rare. Traditional harvest methods have sustained the species for centuries, however due to livestock, their habitat has been trampled or eaten. If you're keen on trying some, remember to never overharvest a single area and to leave behind the smaller corms for repropogation.
Nutrition (per 100g)
Plant parts used
Vitamins: traces of Thiamine and Riboflavin