The pignut conopodium majus is a small and quite elusive plant of British woodlands, which by its nature can be a little tricky to find. This tutorial takes you through the steps of finding a pignut, which makes a pleasant wild snack. But of course you must be extra careful not to gather something which looks similar. I will keep this tutorial relatively short and picture heavy to give you some idea of what is involved, but please do use this information correctly and only ever take what you need. British woodlands need respect, as do the animals and plants which live among them. Also bear in mind digging up wild plants without permission from the landowner is an offence, so ask first!
The pignut blends in quite nicely with its surroundings. It can often be found growing amongst bluebells, which not only makes it more tricky to find, but also a little more difficult to harvest, as you don’t want to eat a bluebell bulb! The pignut has very fine, feathery leaves and once in flower it has delicate white flowers. The best time to hunt for them is generally April and May.
Once you have found a pignut you will need to take some time clearing the ground around the base, being careful not to break the thin stalk.
Once completed you will need to grub for it. Traditionally this was done with a digging stick, but I have decided to use a pignut shovel (purchase yours here) as they are fantastic for this purpose and fold up to fit in your pocket.
For demonstration purposes only, I have taken the surrounding earth out so you can see what I’m doing. This would normally be done on the ground to avoid digging the whole thing up, which is not good practise as a general rule.
Carefully follow the stalk to the nut (root). You will notice the nut lays at a 90 degree angle from the stalk, this is to confuse you. The stalk has also evolved to break free from the nut very easily so that you can’t find it with ease!
This is the whole plant (below), the nut is actually a root which as you can see in this picture is often small, sometimes much smaller than this, and occasionally the size of a golf ball, but that’s quite rare.
Here you can see two bluebell bulbs, which are very poisonous, so be extremely careful to forage for the right one. The bulbs of both species will vary greatly, and vary in size a lot, so whilst they look different here, they don’t always, although the root of the pignut wears a little brown jacket.
Now you need to peel the brown jacket off of the pignut. It’s easy to do, usually a rough rub does the job.
Here we can see the bulb of a tiny bluebell and the root of the pignut (as already stated they can vary greatly).
In this case I cut the pignut in half as my friend wanted to try some. They have a pleasant fresh taste.
I hope you have found this useful, but please do take care not to harm the environment or yourself. If you want to accompany me on a course and learn how to forage for pignuts, then please contact me.
Catch you on the trail