Formerly known as Psoralea esculenta, Indian breadroot has bluish-purple pea-shaped flowers densely clustered on stems that are covered with white, silky hairs. A short plant, only 10–30 cm tall, it looks like a stunted lupine. Its scientific name esculentum means edible, and refers to the thick tuberous root—the feature that made this plant important to all people who lived on the plains. The root is rich in starch and sugar, and was eaten raw, roasted, sun-dried and ground into meal to mix with other foods. Teething children were given a root to chew on. (Wilkinson 122)
According to Johnston, a location on the Blood Reserve is called Wild Turnip Hill or Turnip Butte because Indian breadroot grows very well on the sandy, well drained soil. An area near Cowley, AB was known to the Blackfoot as Many Prairie Turnips. The Cree also gathered the roots, and early European travellers and settlers called it pomme de prairie or prairie potato. For a time in the early 1800s, it was cultivated experimentally in France as a substitute for potatoes. (41)
To be added soon.
Johnston, Alex. 1987. Plants and the Blackfoot. Occasional Paper No. 15., Lethbridge Historical Society, AB.
Wilkinson, Kathleen. 1999. Wildflowers of Alberta: A Guide to Common Wildflowers and Other Herbaceous Plants. University of Alberta Press and Lone Pine Publishing, AB.