Other Names: Common Evening Primrose, Fever plant, Great Evening-Primrose, King's-cure-all, Night willow-herb, Scabish, Scurvish, Tree primrose
Photo by Karen Bergeron Copyright 2001
Evening Primrose is a North American native biennial plant. The plants are very tall, often 4 to 5 feet or more in height. The stem is erect, stout, soft-hairy, reddish and branching forming a shrub. Leaves are alternate, rough-hairy, lanceolate, about 3 to 6 inches long and lemon-scented. The taproot is elongated, fibrous, yellow on the outside and whitish within. The flower spikes grow on auxiliary branches all along the stalk. They are about 2-1/2 inched in diameter, bright yellow and have four petals, a cross shaped stigma and a refluxed calyx (leaves under petals). The flowers open in the evening and close up during the day and are strongly scented with a delicious sweet perfume which attracts pollinating moths. The fruit is an oblong 1 in. capsule containing many tiny reddish seeds.
Evening Primrose is found east of the Rockies to the Atlantic. Naturalized in Britain but found all over the world. It grows by roadsides, railway banks and waste places in dry open soils, gravelly places, meadows and old fields.
Evening Primrose is in bloom from June to September. The entire plant is edible, gather edible roots and leaves in spring may be frozen, gather flowers, buds and young seed pods in bloom, gather entire plant in fall and dry for later herb use. Evening Primrose Oil is made from pressing oil from the tiny seeds. You can also grind the seeds of Evening Primrose and use them as you would flax seed.
Evening primrose is easily cultivated, it prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) well-drained soils and requires full sun. Plants will last two years and are self sowing. Properties Evening Primrose is edible and medicinal and has a long history of use as an alternative medicine . The leaves are cooked and eaten as greens and the roots are said to be sweet succulent and delicious when boiled like potatoes. Flowers are a sweet addition to salads or as a garnish and young seedpods are Steamed. This plant was a staple food for many Native American tribes. Formerly cultivated for its nutritious edible roots, it is being increasingly cultivated for the oil contained in its seeds which contains certain the essential gamma-linoleinc acid (GLA), a very valuable fatty acid that is not found in many plants and has numerous vital functions in the body. GLA is an essential fatty acid that the body does not manufacture. This fatty acid is known to help prevent hardening of the arteries, heart disease, eczema, cirrhosis, rheumatoid arthritis, menopause, PMS, multiple sclerosis, and high blood pressure. It has a positive effect on sex hormone response including the hormones estrogen and testosterone, aids in lowering cholesterol levels, and is important in treating cirrhosis of the liver. Research also demonstrates that primrose oil helps relieve pain and inflammation. The oil also has a positive effect on the uterine muscles, nervous system and metabolism. The bark and the leaves are astringent and sedative. They have proved of use in the treatment of gastro-intestinal disorders, whooping cough and asthma. A tea made from the roots is used in the treatment of obesity. A finely ground powder made from the flowering stems is used cosmetically in face-masks to counteract reddened skins.
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Recipe - Roasted seeds: Rotate and press dry seed capsules to release seed, roast in oven for 15 to 20 min. at 350 deg. Use on bread or in salad, sprinkle over any dish like pepper.
Article by Deb Jackson & Karen Bergeron
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