December 6, 2007

Coontie Cookout

As I've been exploring Florida's cracker lore, I pulled Dana Ste. Claire's book, Cracker: The Cracker Culture in Florida History, off the shelf again and scanned it.

I found more of a profile on the native Florida Coontie plant.

The evergreen plant is deadly to eat unless prepared special. It's also called the Florida Arrowroot, and was used by early settlers as a substitute for wheat flour for those who missed their wheat bread from home and didn't feel like cornbread.

To eat the plant's starchy tap roots without dying, you must crush the roots into a pulp, ferment the pulp in a treated solution for days, then dry the flour in the sun. If the starch doesn't the ferment long enough, its hydrocyanic acid will kill you.

Crackers did the same thing with cattail roots--and flowers. If I were in the wilderness, I'd go with the cattails.

That sounds like a folk song, "Coonties and Cattails."


Ste. Claire, Dana. Cracker: The Cracker Culture in Florida History. Gainesville: University

Press of Florida, 2006.

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