I was going to tell you about lesser celandine this week, but these are new to me and that makes them much more interesting.
I'd harvested a load of bittercress and was planning to make soup with it, but wasn't sure what to use as thickener. I had a feeling I'd heard that evening primrose leaves are good for this purpose, so I looked them up. As well as the Plants for a future entry that I'd seen before, I found three further websites that confirmed the edibility of all parts (with Eat the Weeds warning that some people find it irritates the throat), though none of these mentioned the soup-thickening qualities of the leaves. However, I'll often use potato in soups, so perhaps evening primrose roots would be a good substitute.
I have lots of these plants coming up in my garden path - well, all over the garden, actually, but it's the ones in the path that definitely need digging up. Now, they're rosettes of leaves about three to four inches across, but they'll get a lot bigger.
Leaves of evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) at the start of its second year.
The leaves turn green as they get older, and on some plants are already. I'm not sure what makes the difference.
This is a biennial plant plant and it's worth noting the distinction between the first and second year of growth. This plant will have grown from seed last year - I guess the seed would have been shed that same year, but I'm not sure - and, if I hadn't dug it up to eat it, would grow up to three or four feet tall and have pretty yellow flowers (that don't look at all like primrose flowers, incidentally). Sacred Earth states that only the first year's roots should be used, but also discusses harvesting them in the autumn. I suspect that, like parsnips, overwintered roots are just as good, provided they haven't put all their energy into making a new plant. I did try digging up some second year roots as well (easy to identify by the dead flower-stalks), just for the sake of experiment, and discovered when I tried to cut them that they're hard and woody, so I didn't bother with them after that.
Once harvested and cleaned, you can see that the plant has a pretty substantial root.
I added half a dozen or so of these to my soup and boiled them in stock before I added the greens. Tasting a piece - even taking account of the fact it had been cooked in stock - I'd say these are delicious! It has a smooth texture but I can't describe the flavour; I wouldn't call it peppery (as other have) - perhaps nutty. I can't put my finger on what it reminds me of - possibly kohl rabi. I haven't tried salsify, which it's also been compared to, so it might well be like that. Anyway, I like it a lot, so I dug up a load more (from what will be the potato patch), which are now sitting in my kitchen sink waiting to be cleaned for dinner. I think I've had enough of bittercress now, though.
EDIT: Jerusalem artichokes! That's what it reminds me of.
Also harvesting this week:
Ground elder (with celandine in fish cakes)
Bay leaves (in chicken stock)
Leeks (tops in stock; side veg with chicken)
Red cabbage (last bit, in fish cakes)
Garlic (have been for weeks, but didn't think to mention it before, as it's such a fixture in the kitchen)
Foraged food challenge summary page here.