Using Evening Primrose Root (Oenothera biennis)
Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis) is a common, native species here on Prince Edward Island. The entire plant is edible, but this time of year (spring) ignore the bland leaves and go for the tasty roots. Evening Primrose is a biennial, and you want the roots of first year plants or young second year plants before they send up the vertical flowering stem (Photo 1). Once second year plants have started to flower, their roots are no longer edible. For identification tips, head on over to the Evening Primrose post in the Plant Profiles section of this blog.
Wash and peel larger second-year roots and just give smaller first-year roots a good once over with a kitchen scrubbie (Photo 2). I boil them whole for 20-30 minutes until soft, like carrots or parsnips. Some references say Evening Primrose root has a peppery flavour and should be cooked in two changes of water to reduce that. I’ve never found our plants to be at all peppery, and would describe them as a combination of turnip, parsnip, and potato. Plants growing in different areas may well taste different, so let me know if yours are peppery!
Once cooked, there’s no end of uses for Evening Primrose roots! Here’s some ideas to start with, but let your culinary imagination guide you. Each of these ideas starts with roots boiled until they can be easily pierced with a fork.
· mash and serve as a side dish (Photo 3);
· mash and cool for a secret ingredient in sandwiches, pitas, or wraps (I like to add some horseradish but if your roots are peppery, you may not need to);
· puree in a blender and serve as a side dish;
· puree in a blender and use as a topping for Shepherd’s Pie;
· grate and use in place of potatoes in fritters or latkes;
· slice and add to curries;
· slice and mix with sliced mushrooms (ideally wild), butter, and white wine in a skillet to make an excellent topping for beef;
· slice, toss with olive oil and roast until browned;
· slice, cool, and add to salads (ideally with foraged wild greens); or
· keep whole, lightly coat with olive oil, and toast on the barbeque.
If you have other favourite ways to prepare Evening Primrose roots, let me know in the comments!