Fresh Coho, onions and beach greens wrapped in skunk cabbage leaves,
cooked over an open fire on the beach the Tlingit way.
A question was asked by a reader (below) about what Skunk Cabbage tastes like. Here’s some information about that …. probably more than asked for but very interesting . . .
Skunk Cabbage is botanically known as Lysichiton americanus. It grows in the muskeg and wet wooded areas in the Pacific Northwest and the Island where I lived, Prince of Wales Island. It’s called Skunk Cabbage because of its distinctive “skunky” order that permeates the air. The smell attracts flies and beetles for pollination.
Most people consider it a weed but it is the harbinger of spring for bear food. They eat it when they first come out of hibernation. When we walked in the woods we would know when spring was about to arrive because the stalks would have been nibbled upon. That’s when we would start making loud noises to scare away the bears. Who wants to encounter a groggy, sleepy-eyed bear just waking up from a long winter’s sleep, especially before his morning coffee, I mean Skunk Cabbage snack?
Natives used the plant for medicine to cure burns and swelling and in times of famine when most of the plant was consumed. It has a spicy or peppery taste and not suggested that it be eaten because it contains calcium oxalate crystals, which give your tongue and throat a prickling sensation that can result in intestinal irritation and even death if eaten in large quantities.
Its large, wax-type leaves were used by the Native in food preparation and storage. In the photograph, we used it to wrap our salmon and bake under a fire.
And that’s the story of Skunk Cabbage. I have more photographs of the beautiful, calla lily-like yellow flower that I will share in future posts. I used to bring them into the house to enjoy their cheery, sunny color. I didn’t mind the smell but it was offensive to others, especially after being in the house for a few days.