In Bloom This Week: Evening Primroses

The pink blooms cascading down our creek bank this week belong to the evening primrose (Oenothera biennis). It’s not just pretty, though. It’s an all-around useful plant.

I’ve read that primrose leaves can be cooked like greens–maybe I’ll add a few to the next batch of kale. The roots can be boiled like potatoes and are said to taste like parsnips (if anybody remembers what those taste like). I’ve used the flowers in salads and as a garnish, and steamed the small young seedpods like peas. Some have roasted the seeds (15 min. at 350°) for use on bread or in salads.

But primroses aren’t just a culinary thing. Ethnobotanist Daniel Moerman tells us that the plant has been used for centuries in North America to treat asthma, eczema, heart ailments, and circulatory problems. Modern herbalists used it to treat premenstrual symptoms.

This year, the flowers are everywhere in large pink colonies, and beautiful–a very special blessing after the hardships of February’s long freeze and power blackouts and the challenges of the pandemic.

Life in the country: internet issues. We;ve had a lesson in remoteness recently. We’re on satellite here, and something went awry in that system–on the ISP’s end, not ours. We’ve been on-and-offline for nearly two weeks (mostly offline), and even when we were online, the speed was impossibly slow. I’m sure you can imagine the frustration. Finally, yesterday, after yet another hour on the phone with a tech, somebody at Viasat pushed a button or pulled a lever or said a few magic words. The satellite came on. And hasn’t been off since. We’ve looked into other options, but this is the only one that works in our little valley, ringed by trees, with not-always-good cell service. Fingers crossed that it continues to function.

A family mystery. My brother John and I have been digging into a mystery of paternity that has intrigued our family for decades. We may have solved it, thanks to and to our traditional genealogical sleuthing. There will always be lots of unanswered questions (Why? Who knew? When did they know it? ). But we’re wrapping up the research now and looking forward to sharing the outcome of our detective work with you. Watch this space.

On the desk, more mysteries. Hemlock (China’s 28th adventure) is currently planned for September release. I’m about 2/3 finished with the next Dahlias mystery: The Darling Dahlias and the Red Hot Poker, set in 1935. And I’m playing with ideas for a possible spinoff of Hemlock. I’m eager to hear what you think of that story when it comes out, and whether you think there’s more to be told.

Reading note: I shall try to tell the truth, but the result will be fiction.–Katherine Anne Porter


34 comments on “In Bloom This Week: Evening Primroses

  1. The past year has taught us a great many lessons in appreciating, hasn’t it? I find myself thinking about this so often–just grateful to have what we have, which is more than enough.

  2. I have a primrose path for the first time in my life!!! Ha ha they are so beautiful now! I’m enjoying them while they are here! If the snow apocalypse has taught me anything, it is to appreciate the simple things in life and be grateful for the basics that we are very lucky to have…clean water, food on the table every day, and our health!!! Everything else is gravy!!!

  3. Kathleen, our primroses are wild, not hybrid, so their leaves are just plain green. 🙂 We have the yellow ones (sundrops) too, but they don’t grow in colonies, the way the pink ones sometimes do. I envy your peonies: too hot for them here.

  4. Do you primrose have variegated leaves? I think they are lovely even without flowers! And I like their relative the sundrops! The primroses bloom with peonies in NC and are a lovely combination

  5. Hoping for ongoing good internet service (I started to say “solid,” but that just seems wrong). I love the primroses. My mom taught us to call them buttercups, but she was from Florida so can be excused for that. We would sniff them and then show how we had “butter” on our noses.

  6. It is definitely unsettling–took a fair amount of detective work to figure it out, thankfully another cousin had scanned some old family papers and recipes not long before we did the DNA testing, and that included an odd hand written receipt from the county court for court costs, seemingly the wife had to pay court costs to the husband. Going thru court records, we then discovered she’d filed for divorce but then in the next court session a few months later, dismissed her suit. And he was killed at the end of the Civil War. I suspect her parents, who she lived with after her husband left for war, had to have known he was not the father of this baby, but certainly not even a whisper of this in the family farther down. I’m sure my Grandpa never knew that he was not really a Boatright, except in name. So it was certainly interesting. Had it been in a more recent generation, I’d probably have been more upset than I was but it is definitely an odd feeling.
    I happily feel close to a few of my cousins because of our mutual interest in our family history.

  7. Melissa, you’re so right! I know exactly how you and your cousin feel. John (my brother) and I have discovered that a full one-quarter of our heritage is NOT what we thought. It is dislocating–and yet at the same time, solves several other collateral mysteries. So it is as satisfying as it is unsettling. And the search has brought John and me closer together–a blessing in our senior years.

  8. I enjoyed the new DD & the Voodoo Lily which my library got in recently and I read in one day. Thank you for your good writing. I look forward to the next China, too.
    Family history is sometimes surprising. We found out a few years ago when I had a lot of family do the DNA testing at Family Tree DNA dot com that we were NOT the Boatrights we’d always thought we were, before 1863. Such a surprise and thanks to detective work we can figure out when it happened (Civil War) but no idea who my actual gr-gr-grandfather really was. Not enough close Y matches to my dad and the other male Boatrights who tested to be sure. One dear fellow researching cousin jokes that I stabbed her through the heart, since her 30 years of research is now worthless. We did have other Boatrights in this area and a library where many of that branch of the family lived which does a lot of genealogy, so we were able to give the huge notebook we had on that family to that library, so it’s not all lost.

  9. I am so excited to hear a new China book will be available soon! I am such a big fan. I have all of them as well as all of the Darling Dahlia books. This is definitely something to look forward to in the near future!

  10. It’s difficult to deny that Internet service has become infrastructure.It should be available to all. So pleased that you continue to produce new content for your readers. It has been a pleasure reading them all. Thank you.a

  11. Thumbs up for your internet staying receivable 👍 So interested in your information about your families lineage 🤯 So Anxious for the next Book😃💯🤩 Look forward to another pecan springs episode🙌 Stray Well❤️

  12. Susan, love your posts! It is wonderful hearing about what is going on in another part of the country that isn’t bad news and riots! I have evening primroses, but mine are not blooming yet as eastern North Carolina has been hit with several nights of low temps!

  13. Hi, Susan~
    Sorry to hear of your internet woes, but glad they appear to be fixed. Access seems to have become a staple of our lives and interruptions leave us feeling a bit isolated. So great to hear an new China adventure is on its way, as well as a new DD! I’ve reading everything – regardless of the name you use – and treasure it all. Still having lows in the 30s in Minnesota, but seeing signs of spring everywhere.
    Peace & Joy!

  14. Thanks for your kind note, Susan. Yes, I had Covid too but am doing much better now. Take care of yourself and your family. I love your books.

  15. Caroline, I’m sorry to hear about your husband’s death. Covid is a merciless killer. I hope you didn’t get it–the potential long-haul repurcussions sound terrible.

  16. I’m glad it was a pleasant surprise that brought new connections, Patricia. Ours took place at the beginning of the century, so there’s nobody left alive to tell us how it happened. We’re left to wonder–but not anxiously or unhappily so. It’s good to know who, if not why–or what happened after that.

  17. The DDs and the Voodoo Lily is available for your library to order now, through Baker and Taylor–if it’s already ordered, it should be on the shelf in a few weeks. They can preorder Hemlock, I think–that pub date is Sept 7 but libraries often shelve later.

  18. I suspect not, Mary–but we never can predict the places we’ll go, can we? (Which is probably a good thing.) Porter herself started out in Indian Creek TX! Her childhood home in Kyle TX isn’t far from here. You can take a virtual tour and read something of its history here:

  19. Janis, journaling is the healthiest thing we can do for ourselves, at any age. But (as you’re discovering) it’s especially helpful when we reach a crossroads and need to find new directions. Many of our resources for the future lie–and are sometimes buried–in our past, and journaling can help us rediscover them. I’m glad you have memories of happy, blessed years to guide and comfort you on your journey.

  20. I also turned 80 recently and have been journaling for years primarily because of you and Story Circle. Because I began the journey of widowhood last year after 59 years of marriage, I was curious to refresh my memory of my journey of marriage, motherhood and early retirement. In doing so, It has helped me greatly in dealing with my grief to relive those happy, happy years and how blessed I have been.
    I have read all your China Bayles books and the two trilogies. The Beatrix Potter series was truly delightful reading! Thank you for the blessings of your writings. I look forward to many more good reads!

  21. Dear Susan,
    I really enjoy your books and this wonderful newsletter. Sorry about the internet issues, we have them frequently here in Indiana!

  22. Such a great quote from Katherine Anne Porter! I was introduced to her books years ago and read every one and then read her biography. Thanks for bringing her into the light again.

  23. I was surprised by the quote from Katherine Anne Porter. She is rarely mentioned these days. My parents knew her, probably from my dad’s job with Today magazine. I know that is why my parents knew Sherwood Anderson and his wife. Meeting people like that was probably not what my father imagined growing up in Brownwood, Texas.

  24. I love primroses. I had no idea what medicinal used they had. So excited to hear a new Dahlia and a new China is on the way. And if you are doing the writing it’s always worth continuing.

  25. Thank you SO much for the article on primrose. I have them everywhere too. So beautiful and useful too. I’m going to add blossoms to today’s salad..

  26. Hi Susan – Your books have helped get through the Virus here in Minnesota. Nothing much is growing yet but hope springs eternal. REALLY look forward to a new China book and also a new Dahlia book! Good luck with your technology!!

  27. Hi Susan, Any idea when the books will be in print and on the shelves? Eagarly waiting!

    Cyd Reynolds

  28. Enjoy Spring in the Hill Country after a tough winter! I’m sorry to hear about your frustrating issues with the internet. Let’s hope it’s now corrected.
    I’m really looking forward to the next China mystery! Your writing is a blessing always and especially now. I Lost my husband to Covid in February and sometimes books are like talking to an old and dear friend.

  29. Love your posts. Excited for the new books to be available. Thanks for your friendly information and sharing of life in the Hill Country.

  30. I’ve read the Darling Dahlia’s and the Cucumber Tree, My parents went through the depression years. The book gives me a look of how people struggled in those time. I enjoy your books. The times in years pass interest me. Things were so much simpler.

  31. We had a little geneological surprise a few years back. It turns out my aunt got pregnant during WWII and had the baby out of state. He was adopted. Fast forward 70 years and through the magic of DNA, we discovered each other. My cousins found they had an older brother who looked exactly like my aunt. We didn’t need DNA to verify that match. Now we’re wondering who knew what and when. We highly suspect my mom would have known and helped her little sis. Most of us are absolutely delighted by the new addition.

  32. I cant wait for the next China Bayles mysyery. I really missed not having it last year. Love your posts.

  33. Hi Susan — The oenothera that pops up here occasionally here in Connecticut is tall, a rather scraggly plant, and yellow. I like yours better! But I can’t cavil at spring bloom here — star magnolias, redbud, weeping cherries, masses of daffodils – though the deer eat any tulips I’m foolhardy enough to plant. We had a week of warm weather and all us herbophiles were just about ready to plant when the temperature plummeted to 32. In CT we just have to wait till May 7…..

    Nina Garrett

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