This humble little plant that often pops up unexpectedly in a corner of the garden after a long winter is a gentle herbal soother to the skin and makes a pretty addition to salads.

Scientific Name

Primula vulgaris



Botanical Description

Large, yellow-green flowers appear to grow out of a rosette with lance-shaped leaves tapering to the stalk. The rootstock is knotty with long shaggy stalks rising up.


Native to Europe and Asia.

Habitat and Distribution

Primrose is a familiar sight in many British parks and gardens in early spring. The plant also likes to grow in mountainous regions, woodlands, meadows, orchards, hedges, coastal slopes, chalk banks and shady habitats.

Parts Used for Food

Leaves and flowers.

Harvest Time

A small perennial flowering from December to May.

Food Uses of Primrose

The mild, sweet-scented flowers can be eaten raw in vegetable or fruit salads or cooked as a vegetable. Primrose flowers can also be used in conserves, custards, mousses, tarts or other desserts and confections.

The leaves make an alternative salad green and have a reportedly spicy taste with slight anise aroma. They can be cooked in the pot, added to soup, or mixed with other herbs as a stuffing for meat and poultry.

Both blooms and leaves are made into syrups and teas.

Nutritional Profile

Primrose leaves contain vitamin C and minerals. The whole plant, particularly the root, contains saponins, glucosides, ferment and various other substances.

Herbal Medicine Uses

Primrose flowers have enjoyed a reputation for healing wounds for centuries. An ointment made of flowers boiled in lard would be applied to cuts, burns and other skin ailments.

Today, primrose is used in skin preparations for pimples and wrinkles and is often used in soothing eyewashes.

Other Uses

Primrose is a valuable source of forage to bees in winter and early spring.

Safety Note

Some texts advise the P. vulgaris should not be used by pregnant women, patients sensitive to aspirin, or those on anti-coagulant drugs such as warfarin.


Hatfield G. Hatfield’s Herbal: The Secret History of British Plants. Penguin; 2008.

Herbalpedia. The Herb Growing & Marketing Network; 2014.

Couplan F. The Encyclopedia of Edible Plants of North America. Keats Pub; 1998.

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