Luluma

 

Cocoons from a hairy caterpillar, perhaps the Army Worm, were called lū'lūmai. They were found on bushes, and being brown in color were hard to see. The collectors called the syllable lul, which is said to cause them to shake so that they can be seen. Apparently, the vibration of the voice affects them. The chrysalids were steamed in the earth oven, or boiled, and eaten with salt. If the quantity was great, the surplus was sun-dried and stored in twined storage baskets (hupulu). When used later they were soaked in hot water two or three minutes to soften them, then eaten with acorn mush.

 

John Hudson gathered the following information in 1901 from informants in Tuolumne County:

Lulama the small edible caterpillar.  This Ind amuse themselves when seeing a chaparral bush covered with these chrysali, by placing their mouths near this bush and yelling lu lu lul lul !!  When every little chrsalis will vibrate with pain.  They will often shake the entire bush.”

 

The luluma were subject of an article in the Stockton Daily Evening Record June 21, 1922:

 

Army Worms Are Spreading Over All Tuolumne – Fear Damage Will Be Extensive – Old Indian Happy, However, Saying They Make “Heap Good Stew” –

 

Murphys, June 21 – The invasion of the army worm is assuming grave proportions.  The main army of these worms, which are about one inch long and look like short haired caterpillars, is here.  They seem to be of three distinct kinds black with yellow stripes, black with red stripes, and black with green stripes.  If one walks east of here in the chaparral thickets, quietly, they are hard to see, but a sudden commotion or sharp noise puts them in motion and the thickets then look like a moving green sea.

 

They are invading the gardens and causing serious damage, and the only way to keep them out is to encircle the area with water and then, every stick and straw is converted into a bridge by the pests.  They take the onion patches first, seeming to prefer these after chaparral.

 

However, the old saying holds true, “What is one man’s poison is another man’s food.”

 

“Walker,” the patriarch of the Digger Indians east of here, when told of the invasion said, “Heap fine,” and immediately set off to the place they were said to be thickest.

 

With two ten-pound lard pails, he walked through the infested area and cried in a loud high-pitched wail, “Loo-ral, loo-ral!”  This would start all the worms to vigorous action and Walker continued this till he had filled both cans.  After the pails were full he was asked what he did with them.  He said, “Walker have fine stew now, fine stew.  Him be, maybe so, ten year I no see this kind.  All Injun get fat now.  Him dam good stew!”  His expansive grin was ample evidence as to their delicacy.

 

Listen to Miwok people talk about the luluma:

 

Manuel and Hamby Jeff talk with Coca Cross about luluma

Dennis Hendricks talks about gathering and eating luluma