Wild About - Evening Primrose Root (Evening Primrose Root Gratin and Mock Horseradish)

Autumn has slipped in the back door, and it's time to explore the more mysterious side of plants - it's time to go underground. When leaves have been stolen away by frost, it is the ideal time to harvest roots.

All parts of the evening primrose (Oenothera villosa here, Oesnothera biennis in most places) are edible. If you want to harvest the root, first look for the long dried stalk and its tell-tale seed pods, which started out at brilliant yellow flowers in the summer. See it? Good, but that's not the one you want.


Look down.

Evening primrose is a biennial, and only flowers in it's second year. Those stalks have sent all of their energy into the flowers, and their roots are tough and not good for eating (trust me, I tried). But look down, and you'll see the rosette of first-year leaves (which are slightly fuzzy and have a almost glowing reflective white mid-rib) close to the ground, with no flower stalk. Those are the ones you want to dig for roots. For the bet flavor, wait until it has frosted several times and the ground has gone cold before digging evening primrose root. Before that time, the roots can be unpleasantly spicy. Some even report a tingling/burning sensation when eating them.

Common evening primrose root has a delightfully peppery tasty, like a strong turnip, so keep that in mind when you go to prepare it. The tastiest way that I've eaten evening primrose roots is by mixing them with potatoes, both parboiled, and cooking 'em up with cream and cheese in a gratin. The potatoes help to temper the potency of the evening primrose roots, without masking their flavor.

Also good was thin strips of evening primrose root dipped into a wet batter and fried. Mmmm, fried food.

I've also grated some evening primrose root, and mixed it with vinegar, salt, and honey, in an attempt to make it into a mock horseradish. Even though my first attempt was a little too vinegary, it was still fantastic on elk. I'm thinking that this condiment would be good mixed with mayo and worked into some sushi rolls. What do you think?

This post is my entry into the Hearth and Soul hop, Real Food Wednesday, and Real Food Deals. Please follow the links and support other real food bloggers.

Comments

  1. You always find the most interesting things when you're foraging. I would have never known that primrose was edible! Learn something new every day.

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  2. Ha! Been eyeing my primrose stand and waiting until our rains return here in California. We just got some yesterday, so it will not be long now before I get to do my digging...

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  3. Sounds like you have fun foraging, it is getting cooler here in Texas, definitely an opportune time to maybe have a go at foraging.... Hope we don't come into contact with a snake..

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  4. I think I totally want some of those sushi rolls!!! Sushi is my favorite food of all times!

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  5. I love the idea of pairing potatoes with the evening primrose to mellow the flavor! Sounds delicious!

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  6. Wow! I don't even know what in the world that is! I love the sound of the mock horsey sauce...and would just LOVE to try this!! Awesome, as always, my friend...

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  7. What an interesting post! I used to take evening primrose tablets for health reasons, and I had no idea that was what the plant looked like or that you could eat it. I so enjoyed reading your post - what a wonderful idea to put the roots in a gratin! Evening primrose is meant to be incredibly good for you, especially for women.

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  8. Carmen- I saw a rattler the other day, but it was too cold to move. I felt like we had a moment, looking into each others' eyes.

    April - I've also collected evening primrose seeds, and will be using them crushed like poppy seeds, hoping for a bit of medicinal benefit.

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  9. What a fascinating post (I'm not familiar with Evening Primrose, but will be on the look out for it from now on). I found you on Premeditated Leftovers and now I think I'm going to stay for a while and check things out. It looks like a fun and interesting place to be.

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  10. Oh I love this idea about foraging who knew you good eat primrose! can't wait to check out the rest of your site.
    vickie

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  11. Hey Butter baby, I wish I had known you many years ago when I lived in a different house that had these growing out the butt in the back yard! When I moved, I was so sick of them, I didn't transplant any! Boo! I LOVE root veggies and turnips are a fave. Also, note that evening primrose oil is very good for you. Most of that comes from crushing the seeds but there is a small amount of this Essential fatty acid in the roots as well. Thanks for explaining which one to pick! That is always the issue with wild forage, knowing what to take and what wont work. Big hugs and thanks as always for hosting and posting on the hearth and soul hop! Alex@amoderatelife

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  12. I've never had primrose, but I would love to give it a try.

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  13. Hi Book Lady - Glad you stopped by :)

    Vickie and Else - If you get a chance, go try to dig some. Sometimes, it's just plain fun to have a food adventure.

    Alex - No worries, my friend, I'm saving the seeds too ;)

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  14. Evening primrose root...I'm on board! Got'em chopped up in front of me thinking about horseradish and it's like you were reading my future thoughts two years ago when you wrote this because I typed "evening primrose horseradish" into my browser and of course you turn up, you turnip!

    @ A moderate: There was a butt in your back yard with plants growing out of it? Hahahaha

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