Monday, June 22, 2009

Prairie Turnip

Tonight we dug a prairie turnip. Psoraela esculenta is the latin name. It is also called Indian Breadroot, Pommes Des Terres, and Timpsula. The Prairie Turnip was probably the most important wild food gathered by Native Americans who lived on the prairies.  In 1805 the Lewis and Clark expedition observed plains Indians collecting, peeling, and frying prairie turnips. The Lakota women told their children, who helped gather wild foods, that prairie turnips point to each other. When the children noted which way the branches were pointing, they were sent in that direction to find the next plant.  This saved the mothers from searching for plants, kept the children happily busy, and made a game of their work.  Prairie turnips were so important; they influenced selection of hunting grounds.  Women were the gatherers of prairie turnips and their work was considered of great importance to the tribe. For more information, visit

Anyway, we dug down about 4 inches into the ground and pulled out the egg-shaped root. We peeled back the outer husk and took a bite. Even the girls had a taste. It tasted kind of woody, but would probably be pretty tasty  boiled with spices. 

Poppy and I dug one several years ago, but it tasted AWFUL. We have since learned that they must be harvested in the spring instead of the fall. So we decided to try it again - and this time it was a success. It would be interesting to try to grow them in the garden, but it would take several years to grow the tubers to an edible size. 

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