Indian potato, also known as potato bean, hopniss, wild bean, Apios Americana and ground nut, is not a type of potato belonging to India, but a wild food which is actually a legume. The legume is a part of vine that grows vigorously in wet lands near rivers, streams and lakes. These vines are typical to parts of North America and support themselves by wrapping around small trees, shrubs and other vines. The vine bears purple flowers during late summers which grow into pods of 2-5 inch length.
Hopniss grows 3-4 meters in length and bears edible beans and tubers which are crispy and healthy. The stems of these vines are thin and delicate and are usually covered with small hairs. The flowers blossom from July to September and are quite fragrant and usually grow in clusters. By autumn, the pods start appearing and each pod contains few seeds. Rhizome or tuber is the most edible part of hopniss. These tubers are round and grow from a grape’s size to that of a grapefruit’s. The flowers of the vine can also be consumed raw and even the young shoots can be served as vegetable.
History of Apios Americana
Long back, Apios Americana was used as a forage food for the nomads of Northern America. The tubers became a staple winter food of the Europeans who arrived to North America. Hopniss was eaten boiled, fried and baked and was also included in a variety of dishes. It was also considered as a famine food and many efforts were made to make this wild bean commercial. A few commercial varieties are present today, but they are not yet popular in many countries.
Culinary Use of Potato Bean
- Indian potato tastes well when cooked along with rice.
- Many potato recipes make use of these tubers. Indian potato adds a distinct flavor to the dishes and is used mashed, fried or seasoned.
- Dice hopniss tastes good when used in stews and casseroles.
- Indian potato can be used as a filling for tacos and burritos.
Side Effects of Wild Bean
Wild bean sometimes causes allergies and upset stomach. If not cooked properly, it might lead to wind or flatulence.
Storing Potato Bean
Potato bean should be stored moist. It is recommended to store them in moist sand in a root cellar like carrots and turnips. Dried Indian potato in the form of chips can be stored for a longer period.