We are following the treatment in the USDA 'Plants Database' (https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=PEES accessed 02/10/2018). Some other treatments retain this species in Psoralea as Psoralea esculenta Pursh.
Psoralea brachiata Dougl. ex Hook.
Psoralea esculenta Pursh
Common Name: Large Indian Breadroot
Pediomelum esculentum is an erect, usually unbranched, herbaceous perennial plant growing from a spindle-shaped, tuberous rootstock 5 - 10cm long and 2 - 4cm wide; it can grow up to 50cm tall.
The plant is often harvested from the wild for local use as a food and medicine. Within its native range, this starchy, nutritious root was one of the most important wild foods of the native N. Americans, and is still often harvested for food. The plant has often been recommended as a good potential crop for cultivation.
Psoralea esculenta is common and widespread in its natural range and no major threats to the species are currently known. The plant is classified as 'Least Concern' in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species(2012)[
All parts of the plant, especialy the root, are known to contain furanocoumarins, particularly psoralen and angelicin. These compounds can be found in low concentrations in many common foods including citrus fruirs, celery, parsley and parsnips. Ingestion or skin application of these compounds in larger quantities can cause skin photosensitization followed by hyperpigmentation[
Central N. America - Alberta to Manitoba, south to New Mesico, Texas and Louisiana.
Rocky woods and prairies, on calcareous soils[
]. Prairies, open pine forest and grasslands; at elevations from 500 - 2,000 metres[
|Conservation Status||Least Concern
|Other Uses Rating||
Pediomelum esculentum is native to the central belt of N. America, from southern Canada toTexas and, as such, will be subject to a continental climate in much of its range with very hot summers and very cold winters.
Succeeds in an ordinary garden soil[
]. Requires a well-drained soil in a sunny position[
Plants are very intolerant of root disturbance, they are best planted out into their permanent positions whilst still small[
This plant has been recommended for improvement through breeding and selection for its edible root[
]. It was sent to Europe around the year 1800 as a potential food crop but was not well received[
This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[
Root - raw or cooked[
]. It can also be dried for later use[
]. The dried root can be ground into a powder and used with cereals in making cakes, porridges etc[
]. Starchy and glutinous, the raw root is said to have a sweetish turnip-like taste[
]. This food is a staple and also considered to be a luxury item by many native North American Indian tribes[
]. The spindle-shaped roots are around 5 - 10cm long and 2 - 4cm wide, containing about 70% starch, 9% protein and 5% sugars[
The plant is best harvested as the tops die down at the end of the growing season[
An infusion of the dried roots has been used in the treatment of gastro-enteritis, sore throats and chest problems[
]. The roots have been chewed by children as a treatment for bowel complaints[
]. A poultice of the chewed roots has been applied to sprains and fractures[
The plant is a good soil stabilizer in its natural environment[
Pre-soak the seed for 24 hours in warm water, ensuring the seed has swollen before sowing.
Sowing outdoors in situ is probably the safest way to start this plant off. If doing this, and seed stocks are in short supply, sow the seed in early spring around 5 - 10mm deep and place a moderate sized clear glass or plastic jar over the seed to help protect it from predation. Remove the jar once the plant is growing well.
Alternatively, sow the soaked seed in early to mid spring in a greenhouse. Either sow the seed in individual pots or pot up the young seedlings as soon as possible in order to avoid root disturbance. Grow them on in the pots until planting out in their final positions. It is usually impossible to transplant this species without fatal damage to the root[
Division in spring. With great care since the plant resents root disturbance. It is virtually impossible to divide this species successfully[