How to Grow Groundnuts (Apios americana)

Posted: November 2, 2017

A Native American perennial, edible tuber!

Apios americana, also known colloquially as Indian Groundnut, is found in indigenous diets from Canada to the Gulf coast. This perennial from the pea family produces both edible tubers and podded beans. The vines can extend up to ten feet, with multi-colored flowers resembling wisteria from July to September. Fleshy tubers varying in size from one to eight centimeters are steamed, roasted, boiled, mashed, and can be dried then ground into a thickening powder for recipes. A bit sweeter than potatoes, but with lasting heartiness, possibly related to their high protein content (3x more than a standard potato).

Large mature groundnuts from Nat Bradford

How to Grow Groundnuts

Because of its vigorous vines that can grow up to ten feet in a single season and wrap themselves around other plants, we recommend creating a trellised planting area that you can dedicate to your Apios americana patch exclusively. This will make harvesting their tasty little tubers easier, and allow you to enjoy the stunning blossoms without worrying about them choking out your tomatoes. Plant in fall through winter, as soon as they are shipped, and harvest in late summer. Replant your smallest tubers for next years harvest. Harvested tubers can be stored for months in a root cellar or another cool area (very similar to potato storage).

Trellised groundnut vines from Nat Bradford

How to Eat Groundnuts

Harvested groundnuts from Nat Bradford

Nat Bradford reports:

Groundnuts have an earthy potato flavor. They cook just like potatoes. You can boil and mash them, French-fry them, make chips, or roast them. They can be dried and ground into flour. They are very dense but creamy textured. Groundnuts need a little more cream to make them fluffy, but they really are fantastic. I’ve had them as chips when they were served at the Slow Food dinner in Charleston last year, and I’ve boiled and mashed them. I’m very curious about the groundnut flour.

Sow True Seed’s Groundnuts

The Groundnuts we are supplying have been grown by Nat Bradford in Irmo SC. Nat is an experimental farmer working with family heirlooms and landrace crops and is a good friend of Sow True Seed (See the Bradford Watermelon, Bradford Okra and Bradford Collards, and Carolina African Runner Peanuts).

This Groundnut tuber stock is the strain developed by LSU, LA85-034 (started in the 1980s ).

Groundnuts with size comparison from Nat Bradford

Nat Bradford:

About 5 years ago Randy Peele, who was my Senior Horticulturalist, decided to take on growing this as a a perennial food addition to our nursery stock. We bought 4 tubers of an abandoned LSU select stock for $9 each! From there we have multiplied it and developed an agriculture model into what was last year the first commercial crop of groundnuts in the US.

We’re now excited to make these available to you so you can introduce them into your perennial food systems, or continue experimenting (Like Nat) with growing them in containers.

1oz., $9.95 / 2 oz., $13.95 (approx. 8-12 tubers per ounce).

Shop Groundnuts HERE

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Chris Smith

Community Coordinator and Communications at Sow True Seed
Chris Smith is an enthusiastic grower and permaculturalist from a green-thumbed family. He has immersed himself into the world of seed and southern growing. On his urban homestead, Chris is experimenting with landraces, selective seed saving, crop trials, grow outs and edible seed oils!

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16 responses to “How to Grow Groundnuts (Apios americana)”

  1. Ron says:

    Are the pods edible?

    • Chris Smith says:

      Great question – I have no personal experience eating the pods, but I believe they are edible.

      • Nat Bradford says:

        Ron, the pods are indeed edible. In fact the entire plant is edible. However the pods take s very long growing season to mature so many of them further north never make it to pod stage, but persist and propagate vegetatively through tubering.

  2. Sherry H says:

    Are they lower in carbohydrates than potatoes?

    • Yes, they sure are! The research we’ve found shows that they are higher in protein and lower in starches than potatoes. And you can just tell when you eat them that they are different in make-up. So tasty! 🙂

  3. Donna Coleman says:

    Can I plant them in containers (smart pots) now in zone 6/7? (We are on the line in New Jersey, Maybe 6B?)

    • Hi Donna! Yes, you sure can! The only thing that I suppose might be a challenge is how to manage a trellis for the enthusiastic vines in a small container. If you kept the trellis propped up against the wall of your home, or something sturdy that will give extra support that would work. The vines will be pretty heavy!

  4. Ed Ammons says:

    We used to have them up on Wiggins Creek sixty some years ago. They grew wild there. We called them “pig taters”. I know they are edible but can’t recall ever eating them.

  5. Susan Stout says:

    Sounds interesting. Are they ok for zone 4b in SW Montana where we are already having snow and below freezing temperatures?

    • Hi Susan! Yes, they will grow for you there! You’ll need to give them a good layer of mulch in well-drained soil and make sure they are in full sun to take advantage of the warmth when you have it. As long as you can still work your soil, you can plant them!

  6. Linda says:

    How many days from planting to harvest. Growing temps?

    • The Apios americana is native in areas that include all of America’s growing zones, so it’s really very adaptable. Days to harvest is really very flexible as well. You plant when the tubers are dormant, anytime throughout the winter, and harvest in the fall. They hold over very well in the soil, so you can harvest over a long period of time if you like, and leave your smallest tubers to grow for next year. Thank you!

  7. Jen says:

    Will they grow in partial shade? What is the approx. yield per plant?

    • They will grow in part shade, though your overall yields will be reduced and you will likely have a reduction in flower production. We’re still experimenting with this plant ourselves but have had yields of 1-3 pounds per plant so far. Thank you for your questions!

  8. Dick Robinson says:

    What are the soil conditions to get a good yield?

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