Disappointing Foraging Day

groundnut leaves

Groundnut leaves showing thin, twining stems

I had spotted an extensive patch of groundnuts growing about a half mile from our house.  So today, despite the intermittent rain, I headed out to dig a few.

Things didn’t go well right from the start.  First of all, they were growing in heavy, damp clay that made digging very messy and difficult.

Secondly, groundnuts that I have dug in the past had thin skins with no lumps or thickened bumps except on the oldest tubers at the end of the string.

groundnut tubers

Groundnut tubers

These all had dark, tough skins.  Also, they were all small.  I am guessing that growing in the heavy clay is the reason.  And then the rain came.

So I took my handful of groundnuts home and cleaned them.

Usually I just  boil them in salted water, then toss them in butter when they are done.  They have a wonderful potato flavor, but the texture is a bit denser than potato.  The skins add a nutty flavor that tastes kind of like peanuts.

But these were a disaster.  Thick, tough, inedible skins, and fibrous, barely edible flesh.  So I threw them out.

wild yam leaves

Wild yam leaves

Growing among the groundnuts, I found wild yams.  Two kinds.  I have found wild sweet potatoes all around our area, but had never noticed wild yams before.

Just to see what the root looked like, I dug up 3 or 4 young plants with only one leaf.  Each one had a tiny, round tuber at the end.  Curious, I dug up two larger, but still young, plants.  They had small potato-looking tubers.

wild yam tubers

Wild yam tubers

I brought them home and spent several hours researching wild yams that grow in the Southeast.  Most of the information available was pathetic.  One page erroneously said that all Dioscorea with alternate leaves are poisonous.  Others said the tubers were tasteless and inedible.  But a couple of credible sounding sites said the roots were both edible and medicinal.  And many gave the medicinal uses of the plant.

After a few hours of reading, I concluded that it was safe to eat the tubers, but it probably would not be wise to eat too many of them at a time.

a different type of yam

Dioscorea villosa?

I boiled them in lightly salted water.  They were firm and tender-crunchy.  Not much taste.  I think if I were to cook them again, I would slice them and add them sparingly to a spicy dish for texture.

But I probably won’t eat them again due to their medicinal properties.  But that’s part of the fun of foraging to me — discovering new plants and exploring their uses.

Even on disappointing days. 🙂

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