Native to California and Oregon
Scientific name: Chlorogalum pomeridianum
Other common names: Wavyleaf Soap Plant, Soap Lily, Amole
Soap and other cool stuff:
This plant makes a great laundry soap, especially for hand washing delicate fabrics and things that need a tender cleaning. It’s a great bath soap and shampoo, especially if you have dandruff and/or skin problems. It can be used to clean dishes but isn’t that effective. To use it as a soap, remove the fibrous outer covering and crush the bulb with a bit of water. You’ll see it start to get soapy. Use a strainer or muslin bag/cheesecloth to remove chunks and fibers before applying to your hair. It leaves the hair soft, shiny, and silky.
The fibers covering the bulb are course and can be bundled together to make brushes for sweeping. These brushes were often used by native people to sweep the fine flour out of baskets when grinding acorn or madrone flour.
The boiled bulb makes a sticky glue that can be used to hold the fibers together when making a brush. Also for waterproofing baskets and attaching things to wood or leather.
When you roast the bulb (see under food uses), the juice produced while roasting the bulb can be used to tan hides.
Note: DO NOT EAT THIS BULB RAW, it is high in toxins (saponins) and will give you a stomach ache.
The trick with cooking this plant is that you have to cook it for a long while (overnight), usually on coals or in an open earthen oven or dutch oven on coals. Before cooking this plant is bitter and soapy, the long cooking makes it sweet and removes the soapy quality.
Harvested in early spring, the early shoots are roasted overnight for a sweet morning treat. The bulbs when they’re cooked the same way, are also sweet and can be used a breakfast mush.
You can cook the bulb by placing them, with the fibrous outer layer intact, onto a bed of coals or in an earth oven and letting them cook all night. You can also put them in a dutch oven on coals. The bulb becomes very sweet, peel off the fibers and eat! Yum! I’ve never done it in the gas/electric oven, however I suppose it could be done that way too. I’ve heard you can peel and boil the bulbs but I’ve never done it that way. If you try it in a gas/electric oven, or by boiling, I’d make sure you cook them for a really long time (slow cooker overnight?). The slow cooking removes the saponin (soapy) part of the bulbs and leaves while maintaining the nourishing part of this food.
The older, larger leaves make a great wrap for baking acorn, cattail or madrone berry breads, it helps to hold them together while baking.
The soap from the root contains a toxin (saponin) that stuns, or kills, fish,
making them easy to catch. Find a quiet spot on the river or in a pond where fish visit, add the crushed soapy root and wait for the fish to float to the surface. The toxin is not harmful to humans so it is safe to eat the fish caught this way. Note that it is no longer legal to catch fish in this manner so this is suggested as a survival skill only.
Use the roasted bulb as a poultice for the pain of sores and wounds.
The fresh crushed bulb is helpful as an antiseptic in infected wounds and for the care of rheumatic pains/cramps when rubbed over the body topically. It is also helpful in diabetic foot care.
Juice/sap from roasting can be as an antiseptic, diuretic or laxative, and as a topical rub for relieving pain.