The Pacific Northwest Coastal indians have an interesting legend about the skunk cabbage, a plant found in the wet forests. According to an ancient legend, the Native Americans could eat only that which grew from the earth. These folks loved the hot, peppery taste of the skunk cabbage; however, they had to boil or cook the leaves to remove the tiny needles of crystalline calcium oxalate.
“In ancient days there were no salmon. The people had nothing to eat except roots and leaves. Finally, after many years, the spring salmon came for the first time.
As they passed up the river someone stood upon the shore and shouted:“Here come our relatives whose bodies are full of eggs. If it had not been for me all the people would have starved.”
“Who speaks for us?” said the salmon.
“Your uncle, the skunk cabbage,” was the reply.
Then the salmon went ashore to see him, and as a reward for having fed the people, the skunk cabbage was given an elk-skin blanket and a war club, and was set in the rich, soft soil near the river. There he stands to this day, wrapped in his elk-skin blanket (spathe) and holding aloft his war club (spadix).”
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