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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Have You Ever Had a Hog Peanut?

This story is about the hog peanut. Basically, I'm asking what you know about it or whether you've ever sampled it.

I'm currently reading Undaunted Courage, the Stephen Ambrose account of the fascinating Lewis and Clark Expedition. As that group made their way up the Missouri and then across the nation, they encountered numerous Indian tribes. The most interesting of these so far is the Arikawa. It's a tribe that was 30,000 strong at the time we won our independence, but was decimated by several smallpox epidemics before meeting these American pioneers.

Lewis and Clark had packed whiskey, not just for themselves, but for the Indians. Most tribes wanted more than they could give. But not the Arikawa. They refused the gift, remarking that "they were surprised that their father should present to them a liquor which would make them act like fools."

The Arikawas were quite a generous people. Among their gifts was a bean they got by digging into the underground storage bins of a vole. They always left some other food in exchange for the beans they took from these voles.

Clark called the bean "large and well flavoured and very nurishing."

I did some research, and as near as I can tell, what the Arikawas gave Clark is known as the hog peanut.

According to Norton Naturals, the hog peanut "is a very appealing plant, both for its edible 'tuber', which is actually a fleshy, buried seed that is both delicious and plentiful and for its usefulness as a nitrogen-fixing ground cover, in combination with other woodland plants. The buried seeds furthermore require very little preparation besides washing and can be cooked in just a few minutes."

I suspect this plant, which looks a lot like poison ivy, grows here.

If any of you have ever tried it, I'd love to hear your story.


Anonymous said...

Don't ever plant of of that vine- it will take over and smother desirable plants. The beans are legumes and grow under the soil just like a regular peanut. They don't taste too bad- somewhere between a white bean and a lima. The plants can possibly cause a cross allergic reaction for people who can't eat peanuts or other legumes. Sometimes in the mid-west you will come across the seeds for sale to make ground cover. Nobody seriously pursues eating them.
Euell Gibbons (remember him from the Grape Nuts commercials) referred to a wild vine he called "ground nut" and it also went by the name "Indian potato". Pretty sure this plant is what you may be referring to. Gibbons recommended frying these in butter and salt.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I'd like to try them. Do they grow around here?

Anonymous said...

Oh, they grow around here- they have a wide range. You might want to find some images of the plant and see if it doesn't already exist in your yard or in a nearby wooded area. The leaves are configured similarly to poison ivy but are not shiny with oil. Just use garden gloves. There are many forage-edibles here in Pennsylvania (besides mushrooms, which terrify me too much to try and pick).

Bernie O'Hare said...

OK. I'm taking a stab at this. Hope I don't eat poison ivy like my first sergeant once did.

Anonymous said...

LOL..well if you are sensitive to it, poison ivy and poison oak can also find it's way into your breathing passages. I do not find this plant worth rooting in the woods for (ticks, etc) but if you are bent to the task you can also find other edibles this time of year. Dandelion leaf salad (properly rinsed etc) is fine. Euell Gibbons hosted "Wild" food buffets, lol.

Robert Trotner said...

I'm appreciative for the history lesson. That is all.

Anonymous said...

I've never eaten one, to my knowledge. But that book is riveting. The story of their first encounter with a Grizzly is fascinating.

Anonymous said...

Custer's favorite scout Bloody Knife was Arikara and he was unfortunately killed at the Little Bighorn.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Bloody Knife has his own wikipedia entry. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloody_Knife

Anonymous said...


If you have 30 minutes or so, take a look at this video about the Battle of Little Bighorn as told by the National Park Service. Probably the most neutral and fair-minded talk about the subject:


Anonymous said...

You have to harvest the dandelion BEFORE it blooms. That's why it is an early spring dish.