Hog Peanut (Amphicarpa bracteata)
An eastern native, shade-tolerant, nitrogen-fixing, self-seeding annual vine with edible beans that grow underground. Also a nice groundcover.
As a groundcover. Jonathan and I (Eric Toensmeier) have been growing hog peanut for four or five years now (actually mostly it grows itself!). Since the time of writing EFG we have determined that it is an excellent groundcover for many situations.
The plants come on strong in their second year, and by the third year form a very dense blanket. This will smother smaller plants and young shrubs, but is fantastic for anything taller than 18-24.” It has been a good companion for skirret and jostaberry so far, but is too vigorous for anise hyssop and garlic chives.
In our garden we have limited space, and we need to rely heavily on herbaceous species for nitrogen fixation (thus far: white clover, Astragalus glycyphyllos, prostrate birdsfoot trefoil, and hog peanut are best). Hog peanut is vigorous and dense groundcover during the summer months, though it provides little or no cover in early spring and after frost.
As a food crop. After pollination, the flowers bury themselves under the mulch. Later they form small beans which I always thought wouldn’t be worth the effort. But it turns out that, where the plants are dense in our garden, it is easy to gather a small handful in just a few minutes. They have a fuzzy outer coat which can be brushed off, and a beautiful white and purple skin beneath. They are good to eat raw, and I have read that they are good cooked as well.
You often read that Native Americans would search for caches made by mice, with big collections of seeds. We actually found one of these in our garden, and ate the seeds. They are not a serious food plant, but are easier to harvest then I thought, and good to eat. Perhaps with breeding they could have more potential.
Without some kind of human or rodent harvesting, this plant could get a little out of hand. But the vines and foliage make a great nitrogen-rich mulch, so in this case weeding is also fertilizing.
I think hog peanut is a great candidate for growing in partial shade with taller companion plants.
We grow hog peanut successfully with skirret. The skirret gets an early head start, and is in full size and bloom by the time the hog peanut gets going. Then the hog peanut makea good ground cover beneath, and climbs but doesn’t quite smother the Skirret, which is pretty much done for the season by then anyway. When you are digging the Skirret roots, you can get an extra free harvest of hog peanuts.
This page was created by Eric Toensmeier. It is a sample page for an Edible Forest Garden wiki that is in the works. Drool and start thinking about plants you would like to see on the wiki.