American Groundnuts (Apios)
Inventory, lb : 0
American groundnuts are generally small in size, averaging 2 to 8 centimeters in length, and have a round, oval, to pyriform shape with a curved, swollen center and slightly tapered, pointed ends. The size of the tubers widely varies depending on plant maturity and growing environment and can vary from being as small as a walnut to the size of a standard russet potato. The tubers can also weigh anywhere from 5 to 20 grams each and are connected to the other tubers in the ground by a fibrous, slender root, giving them a chain-like appearance. One plant can produce 20 to 50 tubers in a season, and the tubers, also known as rhizomes, have a rough, firm, and textured exterior. Despite its rough-looking appearance, the brown, tan, to dark brown skin is edible and can be cleaned before consumption. Underneath the surface, the white flesh is dry, fibrous, solid, and starchy. American groundnuts must be cooked before consumption. Once cooked, the tubers develop a soft, fluffy, and thick consistency reminiscent of a potato mixed with taro. The cooked flesh has a mild, subtly sweet, nutty, and earthy taste with potato, legume, chestnut, and peanut-like nuances.
American groundnuts are available in late fall through spring.
American groundnuts, botanically classified as Apios americana, are a North American species belonging to the Fabaceae or legume family. The herbaceous plant is comprised of fast-growing climbing vines reaching 1 to 6 meters in length, and underground, the plant produces small, starchy tubers that are connected to form a string of rhizomes. American groundnut is the descriptor for the plant's tubers. The rhizomes are also known by several other names in North America, including Hopniss, Hapniss, American Hodoimo, Indian potato, Potato bean, and Hodo. American groundnuts have been present in wild populations throughout North America since ancient times. Despite their extensive history and use as a food source among Native Americans and later European colonists, American groundnuts have never been fully domesticated and remain underutilized. Japan is the only country that commercially cultivates American groundnuts, where the tubers are valued as a starchy delicacy. In Japan, American groundnuts are popularly known as Apios, named after the species' scientific name. Apios is derived from Greek to mean "pear-like" and was given to the tubers for their similarity in shape to the stone fruit. Apios is also known as Hodoimo, Hodo Imo, American Hodoimo, or Amerikahodo in Japan, and the tubers have been commercially grown and consumed as a culinary ingredient for over one hundred years. Almost all parts of the Apios americana plant are edible, including the flowers, fruits, shoots, and tubers, and the swollen rhizomes are valued as a mild, earthy, and nutty ingredient in cooked preparations.
American groundnuts are a source of calcium to build strong bones and teeth, iron to develop the protein hemoglobin for oxygen transport through the bloodstream, and fiber to regulate the digestive tract. The tubers also provide vitamin C to strengthen the immune system, potassium to balance fluid levels within the body, vitamin E to protect the cells against the damage caused by free radicals, and other amounts of sugar, peptides, protein, and starches.
American groundnuts have a subtly sweet, nutty, and earthy taste suited for cooked preparations. The tubers are popularly roasted, grilled, boiled, or deep fried and are consumed as a snack or ingredient in main dishes. The simplest preparation involves American groundnuts being boiled and lightly salted. The boiled tubers can also be incorporated into a variation of a potato salad, mashed into spring rolls and deep fried, or battered and fried into tempura. Try adding American groundnuts to soups, stews, and curries, mixing them into stir-fries, or slicing and steaming them into rice. The tubers can also be mashed with garlic, butter, or vinegar for a rich taste, prepared similarly to lentils if they are small in size, or grilled for a smokey flavor. In addition to fresh uses, the plant's flowers are edible and traditionally dried for tea use. American groundnuts have a neutral taste that can complement aromatics such as garlic, onions, ginger, cucumbers, carrots, mushrooms, bell peppers, and herbs such as parsley and cilantro, chives, and rosemary. Whole, unwashed tubers should be wrapped in newspaper and stored in a cool, dry, and dark place for a few days. They can also be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to one week.
In North America, American groundnuts were allegedly consumed by Native American tribes as a source of energy. The tubers were said to be the secret behind a great warrior's stamina and were consumed as a symbol of power before battles. In Japan, a local legend in the Aomori Prefecture shares the story of a mother advising her daughter. The mother handed some small tubers to her daughter on her wedding day and whispered to plant the tubers near the garden fence. The tubers would act as a nutritious food source for the family when she is pregnant and too tired to cultivate the rest of the garden. Many families within the Aomori Prefecture live by this legend and have small plots of American groundnuts, known as Apios in Japan, growing in their gardens as a source of food security.
American groundnuts are native to North America and have been growing wild since ancient times. The vining plants are thought to have originated in an area spanning from southern Canada, consisting of New Brunswick, Quebec, and Ontario, traveling south through the midwestern and eastern United States and slightly southwest to Colorado and Texas. Several Native American tribes were known for consuming the tubers as a food source, and early European colonists discovered the plants through these tribes. American groundnuts became a prized foraged food to the colonists, so much so that they would whip and throw thieves into stocks for stealing the edible rhizomes on their land. For centuries, American groundnuts were intentionally planted throughout North America and foraged from wild populations, found along forest edges, meadows, grasslands, and sometimes in water-logged locations such as riverbanks or pond edges. The species was also introduced to Europe during the potato famine of 1845, but the tuber never became a suitable replacement for the potato. Later during the Meiji period in Japan, spanning from 1868 to 1912, American groundnuts were accidentally introduced to the Asian country as tubers were mixed into the soil with imported apple trees. The trees were planted in the Aomori Prefecture, and the new species was soon discovered growing amongst the apples, leading growers to begin cultivating the plant. Commercial production of American groundnuts began in the Aomori Prefecture in Japan in 1996, and by 1998, cultivation had expanded and reached its highest output. Today American groundnuts are grown wild in North America and are planted on a small scale. In Japan, the groundnuts are primarily produced in the Tohoku region in the Aomori Prefecture and are also found in Shichinohe town, Mutsu City, Sai Village, and the Shimokita Peninsula. Outside of the Aomori Prefecture, Kochi, Akita, Nagano, and Chiba Prefectures cultivate American groundnuts on a small scale. When available, American groundnuts are foraged or cultivated and sold through fresh markets, select retailers, and specialty distributors in North America and Japan.
Recipes that include American Groundnuts (Apios). One is easiest, three is harder.
|Eat the Weeds||Groundnut and Olive Stew|
|Tyrant Farms||Pan-fried American groundnuts|
|Forager Chef||Glazed Hopniss (Groundnut)|