Pignut - Conopodium majus

Main features

  • Can only be found in spring to early summer

  • Small, fine feather-like leaves

  • Single leafstalk going into the ground with no branching

  • Grows in grassland and woodlands on neutral or acid soil only

  • Edible part is a tuber "nut" underground

  • Take note of Wildlife and Countryside Act about uprooting

  • Not a novice plant due to possible confusion with poisonous plants

Find a foraging course

Pignut - Conopodium majus

Edible plant - intermediate

Other common names: Hognut, groundnut, earthnut, earth chestnut, kippernut, cipernut, arnut, jarnut, and hawknut

 

Scientific name meaning: Conopodium is derived from the Greek word Konos, meaning "cone-shaped", and Podion, meaning "small foot". This is in reference to the inverted cone-shaped flowerhead. Majus means "bigger or larger"

Season Springtime/early Summer

Habitat - where will I find it? Pignut can be found in grassland or woodland on neutral or acid soil. It is not found in alkaline soils in the wild. The presence of Pignut is an indicator of old established grassland.

It is a native of Europe and North Africa

Description - what does it look like? The only time Pignut can be easily found is in Spring to early Summer, when its leaves and flowers can be seen above ground.

Each Pignut has very few, sometimes only one, small fine feathery leaves appearing before putting up its flower stalk. The flowerhead itself is a small white umbel of flowers. 

In order to harvest the "nut", which is a small tuber growing underground, the delicate leaf/flower stalk must be carefully followed underground. 

The stalk terminates on the edible tuber.

Possible lookalikes Pignut is a member of the Apiaceae (carrot) family, which includes deadly poisonous Hemlock and Hemlock Water Dropwort. Although it has feather-like leaves as with other Apiaceae members, Pignut’s leaves are much finer and smaller. 

Use as a food Only the tuber, "nut", is eaten. It needs to be cleaned. Peeled and sliced, it can be a foraging snack, or, in enough quantity, pignuts can be sprinkled through a salad for texture. Tastes like a cross between a hazelnut and a raddish.

Heated up, Pignut's flavour becomes a little sweeter

Use in herbal medicine There are no specific uses in modern herbalism for Pignut. In the past,  Pignut was used for purifying blood, as a urine suppressant, and to treat tumours

If you are suffering from any ailment or need medical advice, please see your General Practitioner

Hazards Confusion with other members of the Apiaceae family. Pignut is in the same family as celery, parsnip, parsley, coriander and carrots, so people with allergies to these should avoid it

Importance to other species It is eaten by badgers and wild pigs 

Things to note Under the Theft Act and Wildlife and Countryside Act, Pignut cannot be harvested without permission from the landowner (this includes common land) as it involves digging up the root of the plant

Always stay safe when foraging. You need to be 100% sure of your identification, 100% sure that your foraged item is edible, and 100% sure that you are not allergic to it (it is good practice to always try a small amount of any new food you are consuming). If in doubt, leave it out!