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Pignut - Conopodium majus - as a foodstuff

The roots of pignut have been an occasional source of food over the centuries but has never really represented anything other than a curiosity. There is also a Greater Pignut [Bunium bulbocastanum] which also has edible an root. The taste of both is generally decribed as having a chestnut-like or nutty flavour, and are generally roasted or boiled, but have been eaten raw.

Pignut umbel Pignut flowers
Pignut leaves A member of the Umbelliferae [Parsley family] pignut
is a small-ish plant, frequently only a foot or so high,
although it may reach about 18 inches in height.

Compared to other members of the parsley family
the species is slender and delicate.

The white flowers are tiny, and the leaves are a bit
reminiscent of the dill plant.

Habitat-wise pignut is found in open woodland or
its margins, in grassland and hedgerows.

Pignut roots Pignut roots
Pignut pignut The edible root is found several inches down, and usually
horizontally set back from the stem, but not always as the
pictures here show. The particular ground was quite stony
and the lateral roots were stunted; the root pictured left
actually forming at the base of the stem.

Root size varies. The one pictured left is about a half inch
in diameter, the larger one about 1½ inches across.

The root is covered with a skin which is easily peeled
away with the tip of a sharp knife.

Pignut roots washed Pignut roots peeled
Chinese-style Pignut CHINESE-STYLE PIGNUT & NOODLES

½ tsp. root ginger - grated
Oil
Lamb [or other meat] - sliced
Light Soy sauce
2 or 3 pignuts - sliced
½ cup water
1 heaped tsp. arum flour [or cornflour]

The pignuts want to be sliced about 1/10th inch thick. Ground ginger can substitute. A very little chopped [or ground] chilli can also be added. You might like to add a little salt too.

* Lightly fry the ginger for 2 to 3 minutes.
* Add sliced meat and a slug of soy sauce and stir-fry until
the meat is lightly browned.
* Add the water and sliced pignut and cook over a moderate
heat until the pignut just starts to 'give' to the tip of a sharp knife.
* Slake the arum flour [or cornflour] in a little water and add to the pan.
* Cook until the mixture thickens, stirring to prevent it becoming lumpy.
* Serve with thin egg noodles.

To find out more about the preparation of arum maculatum
flour follow the Wild Food School link below.

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Pictures, body text & recipe Copyright © 2006, M. Harrison