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Fields, Forests & Wetlands Foods of Eastern North America

A Complete Wild Food Guide

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Season: Spring & Summer


Urban, Rural or Both: Both, more common in Rural settings


Earthnut Pea (Lathyrus tuberosus). It has a few common names: Earthnut, Earthnut Pea, Aardaker, Tuberous Sweetpea & Tuber Vetchling. Be careful with common names, they can refer to many plants. It is a member of the pea family.

It is a vine, and considered a noxious weed in Ontario - commercial corn and soy farmers hate this one. They tend to show up in fields and along fences. They have nice pink and white flowers in the summer. At one time they were a crop food in other parts of the world. The problem with them as a crop is they can be hit or miss. Sometimes a good crop, often, very little.

You just follow a vine to the ground and dig up the soil around it. There will be tubers at the end of roots that are the edible part. They are ready to dig up in the fall after the flowers are gone.

This vine has a great feature that makes identifying it fairly straight forward. The leaf and the tendril are one unit. The leaflets are on the tendrils, there is only one pair of opposite leaflets (two leaves in total) that are Ovate (Oval) shaped, and some of the leaflets have shallow, rounded indentations on the tip - the opposite of a pointed tip. At the base of the leaf/tendril where it meets the vine, there is a pair of very small leaves that sometimes look like a pair of wings. At the other end, the tendril/leaf stem divides into two separate tendrils. The only plant that looks a little like it is the Lathyrus hirsutus. It has two leaflets as well. The difference is the leaflets on the Lathyrus hirsutus are long and thin with a pointed tip, while with the one you want, the leaflets are oval shaped, and do not come to a sharp pointed tip. As a way of remembering: with the Earth nut, the each leaflet's outline shape is about the same as the tuber's outline shape.

Make sure you cook them. I have read in places you can eat them raw, but there are also reports that raw they can be slightly toxic, so don't take the chance - cook them. Steam, boil or bake. They don't take very long to cook. Baked until tender, they are very good and worth the effort if you find a few of them in soil that is easy to dig in like sandy soil.


Growing this plant in your home garden:

This could be grown at home if you have loamy, alkaline to neutral soil with full sun. I don't recommend it however. It is a serious weed where it likes to grow, so if you have the right conditions, you shouldn't have to grow it - you should just be able to find it. Also, it is a hit and miss crop, which means, after you go through the trouble of getting it established, you might get very little in the way of Earthnuts.


Description:


Earthnut Pea (Lathyrus tuberosus) range. Distribution map courtesy of U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA Natural Resources Service) and used in accordance with their policies.





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Important Notes when Identifying
Rules & Cautions
Dangerous Plants to Avoid Touching
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