A Spoonful Of Nutsedge Caring

A Medicine Woman Who Saved A Pacific Northwest Town

Photo by Greysen Johnson on Unsplash

The whole town jokingly called her Clara Boomer, even though none of them actually knew her real name of Txapxat. Few knew the word next to her image on her booth sign was her given name. It wasn’t like anyone knew how to pronounce Txapxat (txa-paht) anyway. She was a woman whose laugh & voice boomed like a rogue fisherman’s foghorn.

While Nut Grass Farmer’s Market couldn’t count on Clara’s “unique” potions & lotions, it could count on her drawing tourists to their market with her handmade labeling of what she had to offer. “Mermaid Tears For Muscle Mends” & “Love Potions So Strong They Could Charm A Barnacle” always brought in the tourist Insta-worthy curiosity.

No one except tourists were buying “Mirikle Cough Crusher — Guaranteed To Silence Your Inner Steller Sea Lion,” but the signage did draw the tourists in to take selfies in front of her table’s sign. That was OK by the other vendors, who appreciated the opportunity to sell their own products with the crowds that Clara attracted.

The tourists were just passing through. Entire families on a mission of discovery who would not be disappointed. The menfolk & their sons hell-bent on the town rest stop, being a launch point for the local world-renowned salmon fishing. They couldn’t resist the lures of Chinook, Coho, Sockeye, & Pink Salmon charters. Their women & younger spawn came for the shopping, in the jaw dropping scenery & Northwest Pacific beach scene.

The local farmer’s market watchful owl vendors & customers didn’t take Clara Boomer seriously as a herbalist or traditional healing professional. Her knowledge of herbal remedies likely stemmed from her clearly indigenous Chinook heritage. Some even speculated that she had to have consulted some old antique books to which she added her own brand of ancient wisdom meets modern medicine mystery logic.

Photo by Matt Briney on Unsplash

Only the braver laughing tourists headed to Clara’s recycled jar potion tables, armed with their “Fishing for Likes” pole sticks, occasionally took a “I double-dare you” tentative sips. Of those concoctions the locals observed — some tourists choked, some spit it out, some made the most dramatic faces & absolutely “no one” asked for seconds, or bought more than one. It was comical to watch.

Top of her lungs haggling was Clara’s favorite pastime. Tourists, lured by the promise of miraculous hair growth or mole removal, would approach, only to be met with a golden glint in Clara’s eye. “Five dollars for that ‘Wrinkle reducer’ there, Dearie? Bless your heart, that’s moon bat spit & rainwater. Ten dollars or it goes back in the meadows!”

A few of those “Who cares if it’s maybe-toxic trailblazers early adopters” claimed it vaguely tasted like seaweed with maybe a hint of peppermint. But since the passing through samplers weren’t sticking around, no townies knew that the hacking coughs unleashed on the world lately, were cured by it. No locals saw the chorus of surprised murmurs & relieved sighs within hours of no more coughing.

Within days, came a particularly bad week, a hacking cough now descended upon the town. It clung to throats like a lovesick barnacle, leaving everyone coughing & miserable. The normally bustling farmer’s market became a ghost town, tourists had fled, vendors succumbing to the plague themselves. But Clara? Clara, bless her suspicious soul, remained mysteriously healthy.

That last fate-filled Wednesday when the market was open, the crisp hint of September-is-coming air hung heavy with the sound of hacking coughs. Clara Boomer, frowned as she listened & gathered up her energy. A woman whose spirit rivaled the fierceness of the Pacific tide, she wasn’t about to let a measly cough keep her neighbors down.

The Yellow Nutsedge Cure

Armed with her trusty spruce root basket brimming with Yellow Nutsedge, a plant she affectionately called “Stubborn Sunshine, Clara was determined to be the community’s Xwayaʼna (xway-ah-na) healer. For the first time ever, she shut down her tables early, & rushed home to her kitchen.

However, Clara’s kitchen, usually a haven of sweet tea & comforting pies, resembled a battleground of botanical chaos. First, she had to separate the “stalky soldiers’’ (her preferred term) from the precious wizened up nutlets. Clara wielded rusty pruning shears like a seasoned lumberjack, muttering about the Yellow Nutsedge’s resemblance to “Seaweed that forgot to fall in the Pacific Ocean.

Next she attacked the nutlets themselves. Armed with a mortar & pestle that looked like it belonged in a pirate museum, she declared she was “pulverizing these pesky pepitas into a cough-crushing concoction.” The rhythmic pounding echoed through her cabin.

The pulverized wrinkled brown nutlets were then unceremoniously dumped into a cast-iron pot that had seen its fair share of clam chowders. Clara, brandishing a wooden spoon the size of a small oar, then poured in a questionable concoction of extra“local secrets.” Just a few minutes of high heat & it was ready.

Finally, her “cough conqueror” was ladled into a motley crew of recycled baby food jars, pickle jars, & mason jars, salvaged from countless Dungeness crabbing expeditions. Clara, with a flourish that would make a seasoned fisherman blush, slapped on mismatched lids & declared them “ready.” The labels, hastily scribbled were masterpieces of optimism (& questionable spelling) — “Mirikle — One Spoonful Chases Coughs Afar!

Photo by Somi Jaiswal on Unsplash

Then, on misty next morning, a miracle arrived on every doorstep. A small jar, filled with a murky yellow liquid, materialized with no note or explanation. A label, scrawled in a loopy hand, declared it “Mirikle Cough Squasher.” Desperate & coughing their lungs out, people tasted the concoction. It tasted vaguely of dirt & something that might have been berries once. But within hours, the hacking coughs subsided & completely disappeared.

The town, ever suspicious, naturally assumed it was Clara. But when the market reopened, her tables stayed empty. No potions, no lotions, no salves, no powders — just a weathered “Gone Fishin’” sign flapping in the breeze. Clara Txapxat, the woman who peddled questionable concoctions, had vanished.

She left behind a town eternally grateful for her dubious Mirikle Cough Squasher & a lingering question — Just where did she get those miracle Yellow Nutsedge ingredients, anyway? Little did most of them know they were surrounded by them.

It’s said that since then, whenever danger is about to come ashore to that small coastal town, those who remember the Xwayaʼna, hear the low booming sound of a wind howl of her laughing boomer offerings, “Five dollars for that ‘Wrinkle Reducer’ there, Dearie? Bless your heart. Try this Mirikle Cough Squasher. Ten dollars or it goes back in the marsh!”

Drawing of Yellow Nutsedge by Jerilee Wei

Yellow Nutsedge Facts

Don’t be fooled by the Yellow Nutsedge’s paintbrush looks & underwhelming aroma. Despite its lack of visual appeal, this tenacious invasive weed boasts surprising qualities. Those stiff, triangular stalks, despite their questionable aesthetics, are surprisingly sturdy & packed with nutrients, making them a quirky alternative to celery for the adventurous eater.

While the blades themselves might not win any taste awards, they add a unique (and potentially divisive) textural element to salads & stir-fries. Even the much-maligned brown nutlets hold a secret.

In traditional indigenous medicine, they’re said to be potent cough suppressants. They offer a natural alternative to sugary syrups, albeit potentially lacking in sweetness & adding a touch of earthiness. The Yellow Nutsedge, is also known as Chufa Flatsedge.

It boasts as a remedy for coughs & even snakebites (though caution is advised!). Despite its grassy appearance it’s actually a sedge!. Its thicker, trios of leaves (unlike grass’s paired blades) & bitter taste, hint at a hidden world beyond a simple weed. Native Americans even recognized its value as a food source.

The Yellow Nutsedge’s flower clusters may resemble a down-on-its-luck artist’s brush. It cleverly enlists the help of pollinators like bees & enthusiastic (if slightly misguided) butterflies to spread its — well, let’s say its “enthusiasm” for life.

This “weed” is more than meets the eye. It’s a potential salad addition, a rumored cough suppressant in traditional medicine, & a master of disguise in the vegetable kingdom. Remember, though, research is key. Consult your local Department of Agriculture experts for proper identification before adding it to your diet, or using it medicinally.

“Yellow Nutsedge may resemble a worn out artist’s brush, but beneath its whimsical exterior lies a potential culinary adventure. Like any foraged find, however, proper identification is key. Remember, even the most captivating wildflower can be a hidden danger. When in doubt, leave it out, & let the experts untangle the truth from the weeds.” — Jerilee Wei © 2024

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Short Story
Short Fiction
Herbal Remedies
Pacific Northwest
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