Evening Primrose is a magnificent gift from God. The whole plant is edible and medicinal. This is one of those prime examples of “Letting food be your medicine and medicine be your food”. I have a deep love for this cheery plant and it is EVERYWHERE where I live. Especially on my acre cause I’ve collected seed heads and spread them far and wide. Can’t get enough of it’s vibrant joy!
Botanical Name: Oenothera biennis [ee-no-THEE-ruh by-EN-iss]
Common Names: evening star, fever plant, king’s CURE-ALL
Evening Primrose is identified by its tall and dramatic flowering stalk. It can grow to over 6 feet tall! The leaves are 3-6 inches long, whitish midrib, margin is entire, basal. The first year plant forms a rosette of leaves that is flat to the ground, later forming a stalk with alternate leaves. The plant flowers during its second year. The flowers are fragrant with 4 yellow petals that stand out at a right angle from the plant! The fruit are elongated capsules filled with small black seeds containing the oil. It blooms from June to September. As the name implies, the flowers are open in the evening, some say they open at 8:45 pm. (though where I live they smile throughout the days as well)
Leaf: early leaves are tastier, though they are edible at any time the tougher they are the more boiling they need! Best as a cooked green
Stem: way too woody but can be mashed for poultices to heal bruises
Root: Spring Roots taste rather parsnippy and peppery. Roots can be dug in the Winter (according to Linda, I’ve never tried it) First year plant root is optimal, it dies after the second year.
Flower: harvest in full bloom right before use. Use to decorate salads, cream cheese… Can keep a flower stalk in a vase of water and pick the flowers as they bloom to use in cooking or in an infused oil.
Seeds: the green seedpods can be considered the fruit but are officially seedpods once they dry out. collect seeds to plant elsewhere, use medicinally (high in GLAs), eat them
Evening Primrose is often found in gravelly dry soil, along roadsides and in waste areas. Cultivation tips: Biennis in the name indicates that it is a biennial plant that grows for only two years. Spread the seeds sown directly in the soil outdoors in mid-spring. EVP seeds require light to germinate require light to germinate so scatter them on the soil’s surface, tamp gently and bottom water. Space plants 8-12 inches apart. Likes full sun but will tolerate part shade. Reseeds EASILY.
The young leaves pop up early in the Spring and are a prime indicator that a tasty root is there waiting to be prized. I collected many first year plant roots in the Spring and dried them to reconstitute later in soups and stews. I like eating the root with carrots and parsnips. The young leaves are tasty as well, I prefer them boiled or stir fried to raw though. Young leaves can be eaten as a vegetable or in salads. Dried or frozen to store. Buds are edible before flowering. Collect the tiny black seeds from the seed pods in the fall and use them as a GLA supplement by grinding and storing in another EFA type oil (fish, flax etc). Or storing whole (preferably cool) and grinding as needed on a daily basis and adding the seed meal to foods; smoothies, hot cereal, fruit salads, nut butter etc. Roots may be eaten raw or cooked. Dry for long term storage. Decorate salads with the flowers which taste jasminy and delicious. Make an herbal infused honey with the EVP flowers and chopped up fruits.
Per 1/2 cup
Protein: 2.4 g Carbs 7.3 g, Calcium 140 mg, Potassium 410 mg, Beta Carotene 4000ug, Niacin 700 ug
Antiseptic, astringent, diuretic, sedative
1.Linda Runyon says “Rumor has it that oil from this delectable wild flower is one of the most expensive, as well as most beneficial for humans. It’s composition close to the constituents of mother’s milk, evening primrose offers many medicinal remedies”.
2. Use the infused Evening Primrose Oil in creams and lotions for skin and cosmetic value
3. EVP therapeutic value comes courtesy of its rich concentrations of three nutrients (GLA, tryptophan and quercetin). The seed oil contians gamma-linoleic acid (GLA) and omega 6 faty acid that the body uses to sooth inflammation and support the immune system. It also help keep blood flowing freely, reduces high blood pressure and lowers bad cholesterol, few other plants are such rich sources of GLA. ( GLA is responsible for many of the herb’s properties. It is an anticoagulant that is thought to reduce high blood pressure, prevent heart attacks and guard against coronary artery disease.)
Secondly, EVP seeds, are also a good source of the amino acid tryptophan, which the body converts into the mood-improving brain chemical serotonin.
and thirdly, the plant’s leaves are our best source of the bioflavanoid quercetin, which keeps blood vessels healthy, improves circulation, and eases asthma.
4. The opening of Evening Primrose flowers is a magical site. Some say they all open at around 8:45 each night. Would be worth watching this happen.
5. The Ojibwas used the whole plant, soaked in warm water, to make a poultice to heal bruises.
6. Key herb for effectively treating PMS, the dried root made into a tea is helpful for menstrual cramps
7. Key herb for treating eczema
8. “A study by the Highland Psychiatric Research Group at the Draig Dunain Hospital, Inverness, Scotland, found that evening primrose encouraged regeneration of liver cells damaged by alcohol consumption. Other researchers think it may also prevent alcoholic poisoning, hangovers, postdrink depression and alcohol withdrawal. It is thought to stop alcohol from damaging brain cells by bolstering them with unsaturated fats” Herbalpedia
9. I like using the infused oil in salad dressings or as one of the oils I use when creating herbal lotions and creams for cosmetic use.
Holly’s Evening Primrose Photos
Holly’s Evening Primrose Adventures:
Today was one of those epic days with perfect weather, no bugs, slight breeze, lots of herbal gifts in prime energy waiting to be picked. First I went to the Cattail stream to collect seed stalks (not sure if they are ripe seeds but I’m hoping to spread them to closer ponds and marsh areas), while there I gathered gorgeous purplish blue Lobellia flowers…
Next I went to an island park here in Todd, where the Evening Primrose stalks were heavy with yellow flowers, I collected several cups of these beauties to make Evening Primrose oil with for salad dressings.
Carrion berries were out in abundance but I don’t know anything about their edibility, just their beauty. Anyone know?
Then onto the llama farm, where the Peppermint and Hops were joyfully collected for a Winters store.
I stuck the Cattail seed stalks in the marshy earth near streams and nearby ponds in hopes that they will multiply their bounty closer to my home.
All the gifts are garbled, hanging to dry, tincturing in Scotch whiskey or vinegar, or packed in oil. A good feeling after a day of adventure and shopping in the wild.
Oh and the Goldenrod is prime for the pickin!
Kiva Rose’s thoughts on Evening Primrose
Evening Primrose an amazingly versatile herb. Incredibly nourishing, gentle and very effective, I count it as among my most important herbal allies!
Here’s my most up to date writeup on it from Kiva’s website http://medicinewomantradition.org/oenothera.html
I’m writing a piece on it (and it’s close relative Gaura) for the Medical Herbalism Journal shortly, and will do more updates to my monograph then.
Briefly though, here’s a rundown of some EP highlights:
Nervine – relaxing and grounding and uplifting all at once in a gentle way.
Mood Enhancer – lovely for GI related depression or other mild to moderate depressive states
Anti-spasmodic – Great for uterine and other repro. cramping.
Endocrine tonic – Don’t know exactly how it works but it does seem to have some overall nourishing and calming/relaxing effect on the repro and endocrine system.
First Aid- Great externally as liniment, salve or poultice for all kinds of cuts, scratches, bug bites/stings and so on.
Gut soother – Improves and stimulates digestion while cooling and healing the gut, works REALLY nicely with Plantain and/or Chamomile for all kinds of gut inflammation and pain.
Note the EP oil is a commercially extracted oil made with the seeds. You can make something similar yourself with the seeds but it won’t be as concentrated.
Evening Primrose Recipes from Herbalpedia:
Buttered Broad Beans with Evening Primrose Flowers
1 lb baby broad beans 2 oz butter
1 tsp lemon juice salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp evening primrose petals 6 evening primrose flowers, whole, with green bits removed.
As the broad beans are going to be cooked in their pods they must be very young and the pods thin and not more than 4-5 inches long. Top and tail them and cut each diagonally into three or four pieces. Place in a colander and wash under cold water. Bring a large pan of water to the boil and place the drained beans into the pan. Bring back to the boil and cook for eight minutes or until tender, then drain. Return the empty pan to the heat and add the butter, followed by the broad beans. Toss, adding the lemon juice and seasoning. Add the flower petals and turn into a serving dish. Decorate with the 6 whole evening primroses and serve. (Good Enough to Eat)
Cucumber, Mint with Fromage Frais with Evening Primrose Flowers
2 large cucumbers
1⁄4 pint fromage frais (like cream cheese or thicker yoghurt)
3 Tbsp spearmint,
chopped 5 evening primrose buds, sliced
5 whole evening primrose flowers with green bits removed
Cut one cucumber into small dice. Peel the other and cut into finger-length pieces. Put all the cucumber pieces into a large colander and sprinkle with salt. Leave for at least 30 minutes, then rinse under the cold tap and pat dry in kitchen towel. In a bowl, mix the fromage frais with the mint, the diced cucumber and the sliced evening primrose buds. Put this mixture into a serving bowl, cover and chill. To serve, decorate with the finger-size pieces of cucumber and the whole evening primrose flowers. (Good Enough to Eat)
Evening Primrose Leaf Burgers
4 1⁄2 cups chopped tender young evening primrose leaves
4 1⁄2 cups barley or whole-wheat flour
4 cups coarsely chopped, cooked, mashed wild or commercial carrots
4 cups chopped onions
3 cups cooked brown rice
3 cups water
2 cups fruit juice
2 cups roasted sesame seeds
1⁄2 cup sesame oil
3-5 Tbsp paprika
3 Tbsp miso
2 Tbsp fresh dill or 2 tsp dried dill
1 Tbsp oregano
1 tsp sea salt, or to taste
Mix all the ingredients together, shape into burgers, and sauté in sesame oil. You may need to add a little more barley or flour to get the right consistence for burgers that hold together. Good plain, with ketchup or with a light lemony sauce. Serves 12-14 (Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants)
Evening Primrose Root, Chinese Style
2 tsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp dry white wine
1 tsp sesame seed oil
1 tsp cornstarch
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 clove garlic,
finely chopped 1 scallion, including some green finely chopped
1 tsp fermented black beans finely chopped
1 cup evening primrose roots, scrubbed and cut crosswise into 1/8 inch rounds
1 small carrot, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/8 inch rounds
1 stalk celery, scrubbed, stringed and cut crosswise into 1/8 inch slices.
In a small bowl combine the soy sauce, wine, sesame oil and cornstarch. Heat a wok or iron skillet over high heat for 30 seconds. Add the vegetable oil and heat for another 30 seconds. Drop in the garlic, scallion and black beans and stir-fry for 15 seconds. Add the evening-0promrose, carrot and celery. Stir-fry for 2 minutes or until the vegetables are just tender. Recombine the cornstarch mixture and add. Stir until thick and transfer to a serving platter. (The Wild Plant Companion)
Evening Primrose Root Soup
2 cups quartered evening primrose roots
2 cups diced Jerusalem artichokes
2 quarts water
3 wild onions, halved
6 bayberry leaves, dried and crumbled
1⁄2 tsp grated dried spicebush berries
3 wild leeks, diced
2 Tbsp chopped fresh dillweed
Combine all ingredients (except the dill)
in a large soup kettle. Cover and simmer for 40 minutes, add the dill, and simmer for 10 minutes more. Season to taste and serve hot. (Native Harvests)