Common name: 
5 - delicious

It is hardy to zone 3. It is in leaf from April to November, in flower from June to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects. It can fix Nitrogen.

The plant prefers light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid soil. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It requires moist soil.

Tuber - raw or cooked[1, 2, 27, 55, 62, 63]. A delicious flavour somewhat like roasted sweet potatoes, it always receives very high marks in taste trials with us[K]. The tuber can also be dried and ground into a powder then used as a thickening in soups etc or can be added to cereal flours when making bread[132, 257]. Tubers contain 17% crude protein, this is more than 3 times that found in potatoes[183]. The tubers can be harvested in their first year but they take 2 - 3 years to become a sizeable crop[160]. They can be harvested at any time of the year but are at their best in the autumn[160]. The tubers can also be harvested in the autumn and will store until at least the spring[K]. Yields of 2.3 kilos of tubers per plant have been achieved[222]. Seed - cooked[62]. Rather small and not produced very freely[K], they are used like peas and beans[183, 213]. A good source of protein, they can be ground into a powder and added to cereals when making bread etc[257]. Young seedpods[55, 62, 95, 177].

Apios americana

Drought tolerant: No

Habitats: edge, swamp

Edible Uses: seeds, tuber

Other Uses: flowers

Flood tolerant: Yes

Zone hardiness: 5

Family: Fabaceae

Genus: Apios

Physical characteristics: vine

Prefers a light rich soil and a sunny position[1, 27]. When grown in a warm dry situation in a well-drained sandy soil, the plants will be long lived with the tuberous roots increasing in size and number each year[245]. Another report says that the plant prefers light dappled shade[200]. It tolerates acid soils[160]. Dislikes windy situations[K]. Groundnut is reported to tolerate an annual precipitation in the range of 97 to 117cm, an average annual temperature range of 9.9 to 20.3°C and a pH in the range of 4.5 to 7.0[269]. It tolerates a range of climatic conditions and produces well in cool temperate zones as well as the subtropical conditions of South Florida[269]. Whilst most reports suggest that this species should be cold hardy in all parts of Britain, one report says that the plants may require protection in severe winters[134]. The groundnut has occasionally been cultivated for its edible root and has the potential to become a commercial crop[95, 183]. Cultivars have been selected in the past for higher yields and larger tubers, it is said that the yields from some of these cultivars can rival potato crops[95, 183]. Some of these cultivars are gradually becoming available in Britain[K]. The best yields are obtained when the plant is left in the ground for at least two growing seasons. Yields of 30 tonnes per hectare have been achieved from weed crops growing in a field of cranberries[269]. This species has been grown in the past in Southern Europe[46, 50] and has been suggested as a nitrogen-fixing edible ornamental for permaculturalists[222]. The plant forms long thin roots which enlarge at intervals along their length to form the tubers, the effect is somewhat like a necklace[K]. Plants can be invasive once they are established[200] and have become a weed of cultivated cranberry crops in North America[269]. A climbing plant, twining around the thin branches of other plants for support[K]. The flowers have a scent of violets[245]. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[200].

Seed - pre-soak for 3 hours in tepid water and sow February/March in a cold frame. The seed usually germinates in 1 - 3 months at 15°c[134]. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in light shade in the greenhouse for their first winter, planting them out in late spring or early summer. Division can be carried out at almost any time of the year, though spring is probably the best time. Simply dig up the roots, harvest the tubers and replant them where you want the plants to grow. It is also possible to harvest the tuber in winter, store them in a cool fairly dry but frost-free place over the winter and then plant them out in the spring. The tubers lose moisture rapidly once they have been harvested, so make sure that you store them in a damp medium such as leafmold.

[K] Ken Fern
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.

[1] F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956 Oxford University Press 1951
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaces in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).

[2] Hedrick. U. P. Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World. Dover Publications 1972 ISBN 0-486-20459-6
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.

[27] Vilmorin. A. The Vegetable Garden. Ten Speed Press 0 ISBN 0-89815-041-8
A reprint of a nineteenth century classic, giving details of vegetable varieties. Not really that informative though.

[43] Fernald. M. L. Gray's Manual of Botany. American Book Co. 1950
A bit dated but good and concise flora of the eastern part of N. America.

[46] Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants. Weinheim 1959
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.

[50] ? Flora Europaea Cambridge University Press 1964
An immense work in 6 volumes (including the index). The standard reference flora for europe, it is very terse though and with very little extra information. Not for the casual reader.

[55] Harris. B. C. Eat the Weeds. Pivot Health 1973
Interesting reading.

[62] Elias. T. and Dykeman. P. A Field Guide to N. American Edible Wild Plants. Van Nostrand Reinhold 1982 ISBN 0442222009
Very readable.

[63] Howes. F. N. Nuts. Faber 1948
Rather old but still a masterpiece. Has sections on tropical and temperate plants with edible nuts plus a section on nut plants in Britain. Very readable.

[95] Saunders. C. F. Edible and Useful Wild Plants of the United States and Canada. Dover Publications 1976 ISBN 0-486-23310-3
Useful wild plants of America. A pocket guide.

[132] Bianchini. F., Corbetta. F. and Pistoia. M. Fruits of the Earth. 0
Lovely pictures, a very readable book.

[134] Rice. G. (Editor) Growing from Seed. Volume 2. Thompson and Morgan. 1988
Very readable magazine with lots of information on propagation. An interesting article on Ensete ventricosum.

[160] Natural Food Institute, Wonder Crops. 1987. 0
Fascinating reading, this is an annual publication. Some reports do seem somewhat exaggerated though.

[177] Kunkel. G. Plants for Human Consumption. Koeltz Scientific Books 1984 ISBN 3874292169
An excellent book for the dedicated. A comprehensive listing of latin names with a brief list of edible parts.

[183] Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants. Kampong Publications 1990 ISBN 0-9628087-0-9
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.

[200] Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. MacMillan Press 1992 ISBN 0-333-47494-5
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.

[213] Weiner. M. A. Earth Medicine, Earth Food. Ballantine Books 1980 ISBN 0-449-90589-6
A nice book to read though it is difficult to look up individual plants since the book is divided into separate sections dealing with the different medicinal uses plus a section on edible plants. Common names are used instead of botanical.

[222] Foster. S. & Duke. J. A. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants. Eastern and Central N. America. Houghton Mifflin Co. 1990 ISBN 0395467225
A concise book dealing with almost 500 species. A line drawing of each plant is included plus colour photographs of about 100 species. Very good as a field guide, it only gives brief details about the plants medicinal properties.

[245] Genders. R. Scented Flora of the World. Robert Hale. London. 1994 ISBN 0-7090-5440-8
An excellent, comprehensive book on scented plants giving a few other plant uses and brief cultivation details. There are no illustrations.

[257] Moerman. D. Native American Ethnobotany Timber Press. Oregon. 1998 ISBN 0-88192-453-9
Very comprehensive but terse guide to the native uses of plants. Excellent bibliography, fully referenced to each plant, giving a pathway to further information. Not for the casual reader.

[269] Duke. J. Handbook of Energy Crops - 1983
Published only on the Internet, excellent information on a wide range of plants.