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Oenothera Biennis, Evening Primrose


Oenothera biennis is a biennial edible and medicinal plant. Roots, shoots, flowers, seed pods and seed are all edible.

Evening Primrose also has many uses in herbal medicine, and is loved by bees and other wildlife.

Hardy to USDA zone 4 and drought tolerant.

Formerly cultivated for its edible roots, the evening primrose is being increasingly cultivated for the oil contained in its seed which contains certain essential fatty acids and is a very valuable addition to the diet.

The flowers open in the evening and are strongly scented with a delicious sweet perfume, attracting pollinating moths. The seeds are a good food source for birds.

Plants usually self-sow freely if they are growing in a suitable position, they can naturalize in the wild garden.

Prefers a dryish well-drained sandy loam and a warm sunny position, though it is tolerant of most soils. Heavy clay soils may induce winter rots. Grows well on very poor soils. Established plants are drought resistant.

Sow in situ from late spring to early summer.

Edible uses

Root - cooked. Boiled and eaten like salsify. Fleshy, sweet and succulent. Wholesome and nutritious. A peppery taste. The taste somewhat resembles salsify or parsnips.

Young shoots - raw or cooked. Mucilaginous, with a peppery flavour, they are best used sparingly. Another source suggests that the shoots should not be eaten.

Flowers - sweet. Used in salads or as a garnish.

Young seedpods - cooked. Steamed.

The seed contains 28% of a drying oil. It is edible and a very good source of gamma-linolenic acid, an essential fatty acid that is not found in many plant sources and has numerous vital functions in the body. The seed, however, is very small and difficult to harvest, it has to be done by hand. Overall yields are low, making the oil very expensive to produce.


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