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American Hog-Peanut
American Hog-Peanut

American Hog-Peanut

Regular price $4.00 Sale

Amphicarpaea bracteata

Origin: Massachusetts

Improvement Status: Cultivated wild material

Seeds per packet: ~20

Germination tested: Botanical sample - not germination tested

Hog-Peanut is a very curious perennial legume native to eastern North America. At first glance it looks like a bean plant, with each leaf composed of three leaflets, and a twining climbing growth habit. What makes it curious is that it has two types of seeds: its aerial flowers produce small pods with little beans inside (which can be used like lentils), while flowers just above the ground behave more like peanut flowers, diving underground after pollination and ripening beneath the soil. The underground seeds are much larger than the aerial seeds and can be used much like peanuts or beans. The tuberous roots are also edible. This plant is considered a bit fiddly to work with as a food crop, but the Pawnee people had an ingenious method of harvest for the large underground seeds: they waited until local rodents dug them all up and collected them in caches, at which point the Pawnee would raid the cache and take a large portion of the seeds. But the Pawnee were always sure to leave enough for the rodents, to ensure the survival of everyone involved.

Our seed was collected and brought under cultivation by Eric Toensmeier of Holyoke, Massachusetts, the noted author of books including Paradise Lot, Perennial Vegetables, Edible Forest Gardens, and The Carbon Farming Solution. We're very honored to be offering seeds this year for four perennial vegetables from Eric's personal collection. It was a 2013 lecture by Eric on perennial industrial crops and carbon farming that gave Nate the idea to start EFN.

GROWING TIPS: Start in flats, as germination may be uneven. This plant is known for taking over whatever space offered to it. It thrives in partial shade, especially with damp woodland soil. You may want to plant it in a bed where it can grow by itself so it doesn't choke out other plants. As a native plant, it is very resistant to pests and diseases, so if you find you have no use for it you will need to control it by mowing or by digging it up. 

(Foliage photo courtesy Helena Jacoba, available under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license, depicts the same species, but a different accession from Eric's. Photo of underground seeds is from Eric.)