Above ground, the plant will be anywhere from ½ foot (15 cm) to 1 ½ feet (45 cm) tall, with light-green leaves with hairs on them.
The plant produces blue, or light blue, or white flowers in spiky clusters, that in the fall produce flat pods of seeds. After that, the stem of the plant dies back for the winter.
3 to 4 inches (7 ½ to 10 cm) below the ground, the plant has a small, starchy tuber that will be up to 1 inch (2 ½ cm) wide and 3 inches (7 ½ cm) long.
To use the root, it must first be peeled. You can then:
- eat it raw;
- boil it;
- dry and grind it into a starch;
- slice and dry the slices to preserve it.
Prairie Turnip was first described in writing in 1814 by German botanist Frederick Pursh.
The Dakota Indians called Prairie Turnip “tipsinah.”