University and foraging sources that describe the american ground nut, Apios americana, in detail, expound its value as a food source. Another name for ground nut is the Lenape name, hopniss. It is often found entwined with poison ivy so foragers are pretty careful when they find a wild source of ground nut. Also some tubers can be found away from the plant tuber source which can make foraging a bit tricky. They take 2 years to develop a good crop of tubers which again for the gardener is a consideration when planning your spring garden areas. Though I haven’t had the opportunity to harvest ground nut I have harvested wild artichoke tubers. I can readily say the wait is worth it.
Tubers, like potatoes, have a variety of food uses. Many tribes here on the east coast of North America used these tubers in a variety of ways including showing early settlers a valuable food source.
Tubers can be sliced, dried and then ground into flour. It is a wonderful thickener for soups and stews. Wild food flours can be added to quick bread type recipes, muffins which is what I like to do. Even pancake recipes can handle some of the white or wheat flours substituted with ground nut flour. I would try a small amount first: if recipe calls for 1 cup flour, then I start with 1/4 cup of wild food flours such as acorn. Try it first and see if you like the taste and then more can be added. Another source also states that sliced ground nuts fried, make a great potato chip type snack. In fact foragers who try this recipe rave about the taste.
Plant Parts Used:
1. Tubers: preferably dug in fall; most sources state it takes 2 years to harvest a worthwhile crop;
2. Bean pods: often found under flowers; ground nuts typically flower in mid august;
3. Flowers: I have read flowers can be eaten but I have not yet come across a recipe.
With ground nuts think potatoes. Why have I not heard of them before if they are a such good food source? Probably several reasons. Culturally they may not have been seen as an “in food.” They can grow in a tangle of other plants including poison ivy. Yet as a food source and understory plant they have a valued place in permaculture.
I have found Sam Thayer’s Nature’s Gardens: Wild Edible Plants to be helpful.
A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants: Eastern and Central North America, by Lee Allen Peterson and Roger Tory Peterson, Houghton Mifflin, 1999. This field guide is a must for those of you wanting to learn about wild edibles. Again: be cautious if you are unfamiliar with a wild food. Correct plant identification is a must when in the “wild.”
The ground nut, apios americana, an american native plant, is a new food for me to find this year and harvest. Loaded with vitamins and minerals, protein, easily ground into flour or cooked, makes this a must for 2015. Send in your recipes. I look forward to finding, harvesting and cooking with them.
Judith Dreyer, MS, BSN, Writer, Speaker, Holistic Health Consultant and Workshop Presenter, Master Gardener.
First photo: photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/95661536@N05/14910584260″>Hopniss flowers</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>