Sp’itlem: Bitter Root, or Sp’itlem, One of the Okanagan’s Four ‘Food Chiefs’

Sp’itlem is a root native to the BC Interior that was a staple of the Okanagan people’s traditional diet, and is one of the Okanagan’s ‘Four Food Chiefs’. Like Ginseng, the Sp’itlem looks like a stylized human, arms and legs in motion, and is sometimes portrayed in art as a dancing spirit.

Known in English as Bitter root, Sp’itlem is a locally growing vegetable virtually unknown to most people in modern society. It grows wild in low mounds and can usually be spotted if one sees low-growing cactus plants nearby.

In this episode host Tracey Bonneau shows artist and actress Mariel Belanger how Sp’itlem is gathered with a special tool, and how it would be prepared as members of the community gathered to peel and prepare it for cooking.

Scot Roger, the consultant chef for Wild Food, prepares a sumptuous meal in the Miradoro Restaurant using Bitter root combined with grilled New York steak, halibut with slaw and a Bitter root salad, while Tracey and Mariel prepare a traditional ‘Four Chief’s Stew’ made from all four of the traditional ‘Four Chiefs’ food groups: Chief Salmon, Chief Bear, Chief Salmon Berry and Chief Sp’itlem.


About Wild Foods

  • About Quest OutWest Wild Food

    Wild Food is the antidote to boring, unhealthy food. Host Tracey Bonneau takes viewers on an adventure every week, hunting for big game, fishing for wild salmon, digging for little known edible roots and berries, and then turning those healthy foods into a spectacular meal.

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  • About the Host

    Tracey Kim Bonneau

    Tracey Kim Bonneau isn't just the face of Wild Food; she's also the brains and the heart behind the series. Tracey is a media artist, journalist, documentary filmmaker and professional writer with ...

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