I was scratching around disconsolately in a large pot where one of my yacon varieties ought to have been. Illness and inclement weather struck at a critical moment in 2009 and now all I could find was mush. It was a beautiful sunny day, although the wind was bitter. My mood darkened as a bank of clouds headed in my direction. Seemed like a hard rain was gonna fall......
Then I remembered that a stray Amphicarpaea had appeared in that particular pot during the summer and had proceeded to climb and twine its way through the yacon foliage with abandon. It occurred to me that maybe I ought to redirect my attention towards locating any of the subterranean seeds - hog peanuts - that might be lurking amid the decay and destruction.
So I did. After a few minutes sifting through the soil, I had several of the large seeds in the palm of my hand. Not a meal's worth, I grant you, but in the world of out-there edible plants, an acceptable haul and not a single mushy one.
The thin pods (technically pericarps) were easily rubbed off to reveal the distinctive bean like markings on the seed coats. Here are the self same seeds - certainly nothing like peanuts. Underground beans is nearer the mark, hence my adoption of the name "talet", which is used in Puebla, Mexico by some of the local people who consume this plant. It means "soil bean" in the Nahua language, which is wholly appropriate I'd say.
As I've been calling them talets, I decided to cook them in the traditional Mexican way, on a hot plate. This was described in Francisco Basurto Pena's paper in the October 1999 edition of Economic Botany, the source for much of my knowledge of this plant. The toasted beans were actually rather tasty like this - I've always boiled them before.
Suffice to say that they're really quite nutritious, in a beany sort of way. Think of them as underground French beans and you won't go far wrong.
Although the yield is nothing to write home about, this is a wild plant, far from its native lands, which will survive the winter here and then grow and produce a tasty crop. There are plenty of other plants in my collection that could learn a thing or two about manners from this humble peanut that isn't.