Quamash
Camassia quamash, Quamash, growing in the RISC roof garden

I don’t tend of think of myself as a trendsetter, but I can honestly say that you heard it here first – you need to grow Camassia. Apparently it’s one of the ‘hero’ plants of Chelsea 2015, a real stunner that will add to your garden. There’s a number of species of Camassia, but the article mentions C. quamash, which is edible as well as ornamental – an edimental, as my friend Stephen Barstow would say.

It’s also known as Quamash, which came in very handy when I was writing The Alternative Kitchen Garden: An A to Z, as Q is otherwise a difficult letter to fill! Here’s what I wrote in the book, way back in 2008:

Q is for… Quamash
Quamash (Camassia quamash, also known commonly as Camassia) is an edible bulb, a staple food of native Americans. I can’t now remember why I decided to try and grow it, but I do remember seeing some growing at the RISC roof garden in Reading. They have pretty blue flowers, a bit like bluebells.

The seeds need a period of winter cold to germinate, so I sowed mine in a pot last autumn and put it in the cold frame. It sat outside all winter, and the seeds burst into life in spring. The seedlings were tiny, single-leaved things.

Unfortunately I got a bit engrossed in other things in spring, and when I checked on them one day the quamash seedlings were dead. It’s a shame when something like that happens, because it’s a whole year before you get the chance to try again.

However, I have since read that it takes rather a lot of cooking to make the bulbs edible. They would have been cooked in large fire pits by the native Americans, something which few of us would be able to replicate today – even if we had enough bulbs to make it worth the effort. If I grow quamash again next year, it may well become one of the plants in the garden that – although technically edible – is grown for its interest and ornamental value.”


Camassia & alpine strawberry
Camassia and white alpine strawberry seeds

Clearly that entry in the book was about one of my failures, rather than my successes, but reviews suggested you all enjoyed reading about those 😉

If you do, and you have The Alternative Kitchen Garden: An A to Z on your wish list of books to read, then I suggest you get your hands on a copy now, because I believe it will shortly be out of print. If you’re in the UK then I can send you a signed copy for £10 inc. P&P, just drop me a line.