Pignut Conopodium majus
The pignut is a small elusive plant found in woodland, grasslands and ditch banks. Often found growing amongst bluebells. The pignut is a member of the umbelifer family which contains some very poisonous plants, such as hemlock Conium maculatum, and hemlock water dropwort Oenanthe crocata, all of which have the ability to kill you should you consume even a small amount. The pignut does look quite different, especially in size, but it’s always worth being shown the differences before even attempting to use a pignut as a food source.
So why is the pignut called a ‘pig’ nut? Well, pigs love them and will root them up and eat them given half the chance, but the ‘nut’ part of the name comes from the small edible tuber which can be found at a 90 degree angle from the stem, about 2 inches below the earth. This root is often very small, but on occasions can grow to the size of a gold ball. They have a carrot-like taste with a peppery after-kick. I often time my springtime courses to coincide with these forgotten treats.
LEAVES - the small feathery leaves can be used in salads, or used to garnish savoury dishes.
ROOT – the single root is the main edible part, and is referred to as the nut, although it is in fact a tuber. Simply remove the leathery jacket to reveal the edible white inner part. I must mention here than when collecting the pignut take extra care to ensure that the root you find is indeed that of the pignut, and not from any other surrounding plants such as the bulb of the poisonous bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta.