I’ve been growing Apios Americana for a few years now. Native to North America, it’s a leguminous plant that has everything going for it – delicious tubers, beautiful ornamental vines with scented flowers and is nitrogen fixing too. Also known as Groundnut and Hopniss (from the Lenape word “Hobbenis”) it was an important staple food for many indigenous peoples in North America. I’m so excited to be working with this perennial edible plant that has so much potential as a useful high protein food crop.
The tubers can be used much like potatoes, but they are more nutritious and taste amazing. In fact it’s my favourite perennial vegetable and here at Incredible Veg I’ve got some exciting new accessions in my collection thanks to my good friend Rhizowen from Radix4Roots. I have both diploid and triploid types growing. The triploids which hail from more northern areas of the states aren’t able to produce seeds but the diploids can with the aid of pollinators. So I’m hoping that conditions will allow for pods to form on our plants and go to produce some seed. Well, I can dream!
To keep track of all the different accessions and for ease of harvest I grow them in large 40-50L bottomless pots rather than let them loose in the veg garden. They like moist conditions to grow well and need climbing support for the vines. I mix peat free compost and a bit of potting grit in my pots and use 8ft canes to support the vines. First shoots appear in the spring, vines begin to climb in the summer, followed by scented dusky pink/maroon leguminous flowers in late summer. The vines die back in autumn and the tubers themselves are hardy and can be left in the pots (or the ground) over winter. In my experience it takes about two years to obtain a decent yield of tubers for eating.
Below are some of our trial Apios americana plants tucked between our two tunnels which create a bit of a sheltered micro climate, hoping to extend the season.
Here are some two year old plants grown in large bottomless pots. As long as the compost is kept moist the plants do really well grown like this and tubers can be harvested by tipping out the containers. Most tubers will have clustered in the pot while the plant is still able to draw nutrients from the soil.
Apios americana starts to flower in late summer producing exquisite scented dusky pink blooms.
Although most tubers are about 2-5cm in size, much larger tubers can be grown with improved varieties. Here’s a pic of one of our largest ever tubers which reached the size of a hen’s egg.
The tubers can be used much like a potato but are higher in protein, calcium and iron. We sauté them in olive oil with sea salt and oregano but they can be also be boiled or roasted.