Ethnobotany. It was a food for the Blackfoot, Flathead, Cowichan, Hesquiat, Hoh, Karok, Klamath, Kootenai, Kwakiutl, Makah, Montana, Nez Percés, Nisqually, Nitinaht, Okanagan-Colville and Paiute First Peoples. Only the Blackfoot used it for medicinal purpioses: a decoction of roots was taken to induce labor and an infusion of grass was taken for vaginal bleeding after birth and to help expel the afterbirth according to “Ethnobotany of the Blackfoot Indians, Ottawa” (Hellson, John C., 1974).
«Large volumes of camas bulbs were baked in stone-lined pits that may still be found near traditional camas-gathering areas. David Douglas, a famous early botanical explorer in the Pacific Northwest, reported on this roasting process. First, a large fire was built in the pit, heating the stones thoroughly. Then the fire was removed, and up to a hundred pounds (45 kilograms) or more of bulbs were piled in its place. Sometimes other plants, including red alder (Alnus rubra) or madrone (Arbutus menziesii) bark, were added to give the cooked product a reddish colour, and black lichens (Bryoria spp.) could be added to raise its value for trade. The bulbs were then covered and a fire was built again on top. Baking may have extended for up to two days. Cooked and dried bulbs were second in importance only to smoked salmon as a trade item». In “Camassia quamash. Blue Camas”. Joe Arnett.
Luther Burbank, the great genius of vegetable breeding, wrote a small book titled “The camassia: will it supplant the potatoe?”.
Description by the Flora of North America. Bulbs seldom clustered, globose, 1–5 cm diam. Leaves usually fewer than 10, 1–6 dm × 4–20 mm. Inflorescences 20–80 cm; sterile bracts absent, bracts subtending flowers usually equaling or exceeding pedicel. Flowers usually zygomorphic, sometimes actinomorphic; tepals withering separately or connivent over capsules after anthesis, long-persistent on fruiting racemes, blue or bluish violet, each 3–9-veined, 12–35 × 1.5–8 mm; anthers usually yellow, sometimes bluish violet, violet, or brown, 2.5–7 mm; fruiting pedicel mostly incurving-erect, occasionally spreading-erect, 5–70 mm. Capsules not deciduous, pale green to pale brown, ovoid, 6–19 mm. Seeds 5–10 per locule. 2n = 30.