This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V18", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Among the many wonderful plants found in the vegetable world of our State, California, there are few, if any, that arc more curious and interesting than the various Brodiaeas, foremost among which is the B. coccinea, an idea of which I shall attempt to give the readers of the Monthly in this article.
B. coccinea was first discovered by Gray a few years ago; it belongs to the Natural Order Lili-acese; in its native home it is not so well known under its botanical name as given above, as by its common and popular name, Vegetable Fire-Cracker, which name is far more appropriate than that borne by many flowers.
The flowers are borne in immense clusters or umbels, each cluster having from twenty to fifty, and often more, blossoms in it; and are often found from six to eight inches across the cluster.
The single blossoms are about the size of a Chinese fire-cracker, which every one has seen on the Fourth of July; in shape they are also similar; in color they are of a very bright scarlet, and very brilliant, and produce a dazzling appearance when seen swaying to and fro in the sunshine, it is to this resemblance to the fire-cracker it owes its name "Vegetable Fire-Cracker," and at a distance its resemblance to a pendant bunch of fire-crackers is very remarkable. The flowers remain fresh for a very long time, often three or four months, which point will make the plant valuable. The stem grows two feet high, is straight and slender, but very strong; the leaves are from two to four in number, and are of a drooping nature; they envelope the part of the stem under ground, but above ground they are almost always found lying flat on the surface.
The root is a bulb of small size, found very deep in the ground, never less than five inches. It abounds in a mucilagenous or starchy substance, and is relished by the Indians, who seek it, and consider it a dainty.
It is found in gravelly and rocky soils, on mountain tops and along the northern part of California, and always in partial shade, being under oaks and conifers or in half open woods. These points will give persons cultivating it a hint as to treatment.