Habitat: Woodland, grassland, mallee
Description and uses:
Like quite a few of the pretty little herbaceous plants around in the South Australian bush in early Spring, Early Nancy (Wurmbea dioica) can be eaten. Many of the plants around now have starchy bulbs and roots that have been fattening up over winter, getting ready for Spring’s reproductive frenzy. Early Nancy is no exception. The bulbs have a black covering that is best removed.
I’ve only ever eaten one because they’re so tiny and pretty, but I can say it was kind of like eating a raw, nutty potato. The flowers can be eaten to, but are pretty nondescript taste wise.
Please be careful this time of year, many orchids and other small plants are around and some are quite rare and endangered. Early Nancy isn’t endangered, it’s quite common.
If you’re determined to make Early Nancy your next meal, you can find them in woodland in the hills. The plants are about 25 cm high.
Look for a small white flower with six white petals. Each petal has a pink/purple arc (called a ‘nectary band’) on them that, when combined, make a circle on the complete flower. There can be from 1 – 8 flowers and the plant only has 1-3 leaves. Very pretty!
Early Nancy plants are sometimes mistaken for Milkmaids, which flower a little later around here.