Groundnut (Apios americana)

Groundnut 450

Other common names are:  Wild Potato, Indian Potato, Wild Bean, Ground Bean, and Potato Bean.

On my last trip to Tahlequah, Oklahoma the Cherokee Nation’s capital, some of the Elders were asking me if I could find Groundnut tubers or roots.   I was able to find some and took them out to Oklahoma to be planted in the Cherokee garden near the tribal complex headquarters.   Of course they will need some sort of trellis to grow on.   I also took two Yellowwood trees at the same time.

Groundnut is a perennial vine and the runners can get up to ten feet long.   The flowers are purple brown, pea like with a strong fragrance and bloom from July to September.

groundnut 2

Groundnut tubers are a good source of carbohydrates and contain up to 17% protein by dry weight which is about three times more than potatoes or any other vegetable root   Each plant can produce up to five pounds of tubers under cultivation   Groundnut tubers were gathered all year but are best harvested from fall to early spring. The Cherokee would eat these raw, cooked or dried and peeled for storage

groundnut 1

The vines also produce seed pods similar to a green bean.   The seeds are cooked and eaten like peas in the summer.   The uncooked beans were a substitute for pinto beans in bean bread.   The seeds are oblong or square, dark brown with wrinkled surfaes.

Groundnut grow in wet meadows, banks of streams and ponds and moist soil in woodlands.  If you put these in your garden you will need a support for them to grow because the long runners will be hard to manage.

groundnut 8

 

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