Mennonite Village encompasses close to 275 acres of land in south Albany, making it one of the largest continuing care retirement communities in Oregon.
Residents enjoy six miles of walking trails on the campus that meander through wooded areas, beside lakes, along creeks, and garden areas.
Among the woods and beautiful blooming flowers is a luscious field of wild camas. What makes this field special, besides the beautiful blooms? Camas grows wild in moist meadows in the western United States. The habitat where this plant can grow naturally is growing smaller. The fact that Mennonite Village has this meadow is a rare treat. Especially given the amazing history of camas.
Common camas bulb has long nourished native peoples of the Northwest, including the Kalapuya tribes of the Willamette Valley. Bulbs would be steamed or pit cooked for one to three days breaking down complex carbohydrates into ample amounts of the sugar fructose. Native Americans would then dry out the cooked bulbs and grind them into a meal. The meal was used in variety of ways. At times It would be mixed with water to form a batter and then cooked like a pancake or the meal would be mixed with water and formed into large bricks and then cooked and stored for future use.
The Nez Pierce introduced Lewis and Clark to common camas in September 1805. At their first meeting, the Nez Pierce gave members of the expedition buffalo meat, salmon and various roots including what the Nez Pierce called quamash. Clark wrote that evening in his journal, “I find myself very unwell all the evening from eating the fish and roots to freely.” Lewis wrote a detailed description of the plant, one of the most detailed accounts of any plant he collected on the entire expedition.
If you find yourself strolling on the Mennonite Village campus on the south side of the Lakeside Center, take a moment to contemplate the wild camas plants blooming there.
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