Prairie turnip (Psoralea esculenta)

Prairie turnip (Psoralea esculenta)
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Pediomelum esculentum

Psoralea esculenta is an herbaceous perennial plant native to prairies and dry woodlands of central North America, which bears a starchy tuberous root edible as a root vegetable. English names for the plant include tipsin, teepsenee, breadroot, breadroot scurf pea, pomme blanche, and prairie turnip.

Several densely-haired stems emerge from the ground and reach up to 30 cm, bearing palmately compound leaves divided into five leaflets. Summer produces abundant blue or purple flowers in terminal clusters 5 to 10 cm long, leading to flattened, slender-tipped pods.

The plant grows from one or more sturdy brown roots which form rounded tuberous bodies about 7 to 10 cm below the surface, each 4 to 10 cm long. These can be eaten raw, dried, or cooked. The raw root is moderately sweet and tastes like the turnip. The dried root can be ground into a flour.

Abundant, palatable, and nutritious, the root was once a wild-gathered staple of Native Americans and early European explorers. Its characteristics make it an obvious candidate for possible domestication.

Categories: Root vegetables | Flora of Montana | Faboideae | Edible legumes