This geocache is part of the Gold Country GeoTour – The Prequel: Be A Guest. This GeoTour focuses on a step back in time to learn about before the Gold Rush ensued: languages of the region’s culturally diverse families, handed down traditions such as recipes, flora and fauna, historic sites of significance, and points of interest. These stories will help preserve the oral languages and traditions of the region as well as assist in educating visitors and locals alike to the cultural diversity and environmental sensitivity of the region.
Hooshum: Soopolallie (Shepherdia canadensis), also known as Soapberry, Canada buffaloberry, and Russet buffaloberry.
Secwepemc: sxúsem (soapberry)
Tsilhqot’in: nuŵɨsh (soopallalie or soap berries)
Stl’atl’imx (Fraser River): sxúsem (soapberry)
Nlaka’pamux: sxʷúsm (fruit of foamberry, soapberry, soopolallie, russet buffaloberry)
Nsyilxcən: sx̂ʷsmitkʷ (soap berry juice or foam berry drink)
English translation: Soopolallie, Soapberry, Foam berry, Canada buffaloberry, and Russet buffaloberry.
Color: Green foliage, yellow-brown inconspicuous flowers, red berries.
Typical Bloom (varies by elevation): Early spring, before the leaves of the bush open.
Harvest: July – September depending on elevation.
In British Columbia Soopolallie is the most common name of the Sxúsem (pronounced hooshum) plant. The word Soopolallie historically comes from the trading language spoke in the Pacific Northwest and is derived from the Chinook words “soop” meaning soap, and “olallie” meaning berry.
Sxúsem (Hooshum) are deciduous shrubs that grow 1 to 4 metres high in open and forested areas at mid to high elevations preferring well draining rocky soils and slopes that are east facing. They have slim shiny green leaves 1 to 2 inches long that have grey-silver undersides with a coating of tiny hairs. The leaves are oval shaped growing opposite each other on brown branches and have rusty coloured spots on their backsides. The yellow inconspicuous flowers arrive early in spring before the first leaves even open.
The Nlaka’pamux, St’at’imc, and Secwépemc people of the Interior extensively harvested the bitter berries to turn them in to "sxúsem", also spelled "sxushem" and "xoosum" or "hooshum” and is sometimes referred to as “Indian ice cream”. Only the ripest berries were collected by beating the branches of the bush with a stick so that the fruit would drop on to mats placed underneath to catch the falling fruits. Once harvested the berries would be cleaned, crushed, and whipped into a foam. Sometimes other sweeter berries were added to the hooshum before crushing such as wild mountain raspberries, thimble berries, or wild strawberries.
Sxúsem (Hooshum) was known for its health properties and benefits by the Indigenous tribes of the interior. The tiny red berries are rich in lycopene. Lycopene is an antioxidant that seems to lessen the risk of some cancer types, gaining the berry “superfruit” status these days. The bitter berries also carry saponin, which is where they get their superior foaming ability from. Saponin may cause gastrointestinal irritation if large amounts are ingested. Hooshum also contains large amounts of vitamin C and iron.
Indigenous Cultural Notes: Sxúsem (Hooshum) berries are harvested in August. “xʷús” has a root meaning of ‘foam’.
The Nlaka’pamux boiled twigs and when this had cooled, they used the decoction for treating dandruff. The berries were used to treat different ailments such as the flu and indigestion, and used as a tea, for relieving constipation. A tea made from the bark was used to treat issues with the eyes. The juice was said to be good for acne, boils, digestive problems and even gallstones.
Interesting Facts: Sxúsem (Hooshum) is a super fruit growing in all of Canada except for Prince Edward Island (PEI). Its range also carries to the western and northern United States. Sxúsem (Hooshum) has male and female bushes with only the female bushes producing fruits, and only if there is a male plant close by. The Sxúsem (Hooshum) is a main part of the bear’s diet.
Sxúsem (Hooshum) Jelly Recipe:
10 cups cleaned & stemmed ripe berries
5 cups water
6 cups sugar
Gently boil Sxúsem Hooshum) berries in and oversized pot with water 5 – 10 minutes. Remove and cool enough to handle. Strain cooked berries and juices with tight cotton to hold back any sludge. Let drip, do not squeeze. Return filtered juice to stove pot adding sugar, return to boil and continue to boil about 30 minutes. With a cold spoon preform a “sheet test” and when the two jelly drops form together and "sheet" off the side of the tilted spoon, the jelly is ready to be skimmed and poured into sterilized jars. Process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes for half pints. Recipe credits to Sandra Konrad with minor recipe alterations preferred by preserver and writer Lana Rae Brooks who preserves this food source annually.
Medicinal plant information is for historical information only. Gold Country Communities Society is not encouraging harvesting of native plants for food and/or medicine.
Researched and wrote by Lana Rae Brooks
Turner, Nancy J., Laurence C. Thompson, M. Terry Thompson, and Annie Z. York. 1990. Thompson Ethnobotany. Royal British Columbia Museum: Victoria. Pp. 209-11.
Parish et al 1996