Revealing My Hidden Talets

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.


Did you eat them all? Or, is there any cance of acquiring one? I would like to try them.
Mark said…
Gardens North in Canada sell the aboveground seeds(like very small beans 2-3mm long). I just bought some for the day when I have to go back to Scotland, they should be better adapted than Mexican ones.
Rhizowen said…

I'll have another disconsolate scratch around.


That's interesting information. If their seeds are from local provenance plants, then they will probably flower earlier than those from more southerly parts of A. bracteata's range, thus making them more suitable for our latitude. That is apparently the case with A. edgeworthii in Japan - plants from Hokkaido, for example, flower earlier and for longer than those from Honshu. Nova Scotia must be pretty close to the northernmost distribution of A. bracteata. I'd like to get hold of seeds from Prince Edward Island, where both Amphicarpaea and Apios are found.

Let me know when you plant them , so I can supply you with some Bradyrhizobium elkanii, or whatever bacterium it is that forms nodules on my plants.
Mark said…
Thanks for the kind offer of B.elkani. I have also ordered two potted plants of A.braceata from Tripple Brook farms in Massachusetts in order to get my B.elkani. Waiting for the US postal service to deliver. Then I will get some seeds going maybe 3 -4 seeds and hide them on the north side of the house away from the sun in the shade (currently in New Mexico, the land of too much sunshine and seriously dumb politicians. Then water furiously, and wait with anticipation.
Will update on how well they do, I hope they do not die due to heatstroke here. Hopefully, I will also be in the US to be able to report on their happy fruition, depends on whether I get a job or postdoc here. Such is life!
If I end up in Scotland, I'll take up your offer of B.elkani.
Rhizowen said…

Ah, right, now I understand. You could always nip over the border to the Sierra Madre de Puebla and scour the milpas for talet-friendly bacteria. Keep an eye out for Lathyrus tuberosus as well - it's quite extensively naturalised in the USA.
Ottawa Gardener said…
This is a crop that I want to grow... oh the frustration of garden transitions. I understand Frank grows them with his corn (if I remember correctly). Sounds like an interesting idea.
Thanks for sending the talet seeds. Interesting that they germinated en route, there has to be a pun there somewhere.
Rhizowen said…
In root en route?
Greg Martin said…
They grow wild in my forest and gardens here in Maine. I dug one up that was growing in the full shade of the forest floor and it's roots were nicely nodulated. And they say nitrogen fixers need full sun...not so!