Fernleaf Biscuitroot is a drought-tolerant herb, native to the Western states, with edible roots, leaves, and seeds, beautiful flowers, and many medicinal uses.
Biscuitroot remains an extremely important plant to Native American cultures for both food and medicine. The starchy root vegetable can be eaten cooked or ground into flours, with a unique, earthy and spicy flavor. The young leaves and shoots are a hardy spring green, eaten raw or cooked, with a taste like parsley. And the seeds are especially aromatic and spicy like Carraway - a great flavoring agent for soups and stews.
Lomatium was used as a panacea for a wide variety of ailments, from respiratory infections to skin complaints to digestion issues to arthiritis. It is a powerful anti-viral and anti-biotic.
CAUTION: Fernleaf Biscuitroot can resemble Poison Hemlock in the wild. Confirm identification before any wild harvest.
Fernleaf Biscuitroot is a perennial herb that brings a lush appearance to dryland gardens (but it can handle wet, too). Resprouting every spring from its underground taproot, it grows graceful fern-shaped leaves and yellow to purple carrot-like flowers. A great addition to any herb patch, or amidst other sun-loving perennial herbs like Indian Celery and Black Sunflower.
Environment and Culture
Fernleaf Biscuitroot’s wild home is in dry meadows, rocky hillsides, and coastal bluffs through the West. Its' leaves provides critical early-spring forage for many wildlife species; its flowers attract many native pollinators; and its seeds feed many birds. It can be found growing in the wild alongside Black Sunflower and Indian Ricegrass.
Harvest, Care, and Preparation
If you have gophers in the area, care must be taken to protect roots from predation. Besides this, lomatium are quite easy to care for, and need very little water. They spread by seed, which can be manually re-planted to increase the patch size.
It takes several years to develop a large taproot. Harvesting the root requires digging the entire plant, and is best done during dormancy of Fall/Winter. The root can then be cleaned, peeled, and cooked like a parsnip. Serve alongside other root crops. See our blog for a great recipe.
The leaves and young shoots are an early spring treat, easily plucked or cut and added to raw salads or vegetable dishes. Only harvest a few young shoots from each plant each spring.
Seeds are mature in mid-summer and can be easily stripped or shaken from the plant and stored as a seasoning - used ground or whole in many dishes like Carraway seed.