American groundnut (Apios americana) is a native plant that produces a starchy, protein-rich tuber. Maitake mushrooms (aka hen of the woods) are a prized culinary and medicinal fungi. We set out to combine these two ingredients into one delectable chowder recipe…
Seasonal native foods combine for a new recipe
Both of these foods are amazing in the kitchen. There’s also increasing evidence that they offer some pretty extraordinary health/medicinal benefits as we wrote about in our introductory articles.
American groundnut tubers are ready to harvest and eat in the fall. The same is true with maitake mushrooms.
These are precious foods to us – we don’t have a lot to spare. We only grow about 10 pounds of American groundnuts each year (though we plan to increase that quantity in future summers).
Maitakes are a rare mushroom for us, so we’re lucky to have enough excess to store a few pounds in the freezer at the end of our fall foraging season. This year, our prime maitake mushroom spot didn’t even fruit, so we’re down to the last of our previous year’s supply.
Limited ingredients: no room for error
All this to say: our ability to make and refine recipes from these two ingredients is extremely limited. Our goal with this American groundnut and maitake mushroom chowder recipe is to get a good foundational soup recipe that we (or you) could build on with future iterations.
We think we’ve accomplished that aim. This chowder recipe is savory and full of nuanced flavors. The taste is similar to split pea soup with notes of boiled peanuts and umami/mushroom flavors.
This chowder is also very high in protein, making it a healthy, filling meal. Yes, American groundnuts and maitake mushrooms are high in protein, as is milk, another primary ingredient. Plus, American groundnuts contain plenty of complex carbohydrates to help round things out.
Recipe wild card: spruce needles
The Tyrant makes fun of my infatuation with edible conifers. Every time we pass a conifer tree, I feel compelled to identify it and list its edible components. Hence our edible conifer guide: how to eat your Christmas tree.
For a few months, I’ve been itching to combine the following three flavors in one pot:
- mature spruce needles (rosemary and intense citrus flavors),
- American groundnut tubers (taste like a cross between a potato and a boiled peanut), and
- maitake mushrooms (rich earthy mushroom flavors).
With very limited time to spare on a recent weekend morning (due to toddler and Tyrant demands), I rushed out to gather the one ingredient I didn’t currently have in-house from a nearby foraging spot: spruce needles. The idea was to make a cooked spruce needle cream/milk using our recipe, which calls for a 1:4 ratio of needles to cream or milk.
Ideally, if you opt to use spruce needles when making this recipe, you’ll have 2-3 days for a cold infusion process to really get the spruce needle flavor to show up. I had about 45 minutes and only ended up with 1/4 cup of needles, which is far less needles than I needed to do a heat infusion (ideal would have been 1 cup of needles since I was starting with 4 cups of milk in the recipe draft).
All this to say: I screwed up. The spruce needle flavor didn’t show up in the final chowder, but the whole grass-fed milk I used was reduced by 1 cup in the process and was at least infused with a bit of extra nutrition from the spruce needles.
So should I tell you to also use spruce needles or not? To skip the spruce needles but still heat your plain milk until it reduces by 1/4? Or just use a cream-milk combo?
With our other recipes made with ingredients we have in abundance, we have the ability to retry and refine things to the point that all unknowns are ironed out prior to publication. Not so here, but we’re confident enough in the basics of this recipe that we’re sharing it anyway.
If you do opt to use spruce needles, please let us know how these three primary flavors combine – we’re dying to find out!
Important recipe notes for American groundnut and maitake mushroom chowder
1. Peel your groundnuts.
The skin on our American groundnuts is fairly thin. Thus, when we pan-fry American groundnuts, we thin-slice the tubers and leave the skins on.
However, in this recipe, we figured the texture of the American groundnut skins would add an unpleasant grittiness and a less appealing color. Thus our recommendation: peel them before dicing and cooking. A carrot grater will do the trick.
2. Dice your peeled groundnuts into 1/4″ pieces.
The final texture of this chowder will be best if you cut your American groundnuts into very small pieces, about 1/4″ cubes. Unlike potatoes, they won’t turn to mush even when they’re well cooked.
In the end, you’ll have small, soft chunks of groundnuts in your bowl. You could puree all the ingredients after cooking if you’d prefer, but we wanted a chunky chowder consistency.
3. Use this trick to clean your sticky knife after cutting groundnuts.
American groundnuts have a sticky latex substance in them that you don’t really notice when you’re cutting them. However, you will notice this latex on your knife when you’re done.
Nope, soap and hot water won’t remove the latex. A trick we learned from processing and eating jackfruit (which also have lots of latex in them) is to put a dab of cooking oil on a paper towel and wipe the blade clean.
The oil binds with the latex and removes it. Repeat 2-3 times until your blade is latex-free.
4. Dice your other solid ingredients (onions and maitake mushrooms) into 1/4″ pieces.
As with your American groundnuts, you’ll also want to finely dice the other solid ingredients in this recipe for a nice final consistency.
You can use fresh or frozen maitakes for this recipe. Since we used frozen maitakes, we had to let our mushrooms thaw for about 45 minutes before dicing them. Another mushroom that would make a great substitute for maitakes in this recipe is lion’s manes, although they’re different flavors.
5. Don’t skimp on the cook times.
Some people have reported gastric upset from eating American groundnuts. Thankfully, we’ve never had such an experience.
Our guess: if you cook American groundnuts really well, whatever compounds that might otherwise cause gastric distress are broken down and rendered inert. So, don’t skimp on the cook times with this recipe.
And if you’ve never eaten American groundnuts before, maybe just have a small bowl of chowder your first time. Don’t worry, it tastes just as good if not better the next day, and you’ll then have plenty of time to know whether you’re likely to suffer averse reactions.
6. Spruce milk/cream or not?
If you read above, you know that: a) I screwed up, and b) using spruce needles is optional when making this recipe. Recommendations:
- If you have 2-3 days to plan, make a cold-infused spruce needle milk as per our original recipe using a 1:4 ratio of mature spruce needles to whole organic grass-fed milk.
- If you want a recipe you can eat today, skip the spruce needle milk and just use milk. (Still use whole organic grass-fed milk because it’s better for you and the ruminants that produced it.)
7. Garnishes, additions, and alterations
Let us repeat: this is intended to be a base recipe to build on. Once you know the flavor, you might decide to alter future iterations or experiment with additional ingredients: Worcestershire sauce, that homemade balsamic vinegar you made…? Go for it!
As for garnishes, we used:
- crispy bacon bits removed from the pot during the first step of cooking,
- diced onion greens (Egyptian walking onions from our garden),
- pansy flowers from our garden, and
- grated spruce needle-cured egg yolk.
Now, let’s get cooking!
Recipe: American groundnut and maitake mushroom chowder
American groundnut and maitake mushroom chowder
A hearty, thick and chunky soup (chowder) made from American groundnut tubers (Apios americana) and maitake mushrooms.
- 2 lbs American groundnuts, peeled and diced into 1/4" pieces (6 cups measured after dicing)
- 12 ounces maitake mushrooms, fresh or frozen, diced into 1/4" pieces (a little under 4 cups measured after dicing)
- 1 white or yellow onion, diced into small 1/4" pieces (about 1.5 cups diced)
- 4 cups whole organic, grass-fed milk (Alt: 3 days ahead, make our cold-infused spruce-needle milk to use instead of plain milk. See notes in article.)
- 3 cups chicken stock (Alt: 3 cups water + 3 tsp liquid chicken bouillon)
- 1 packet bacon, pasture-raised (~12 ounces)
- 1/4 cup white wine (used to deglaze pot after sautéing primary ingredients)
- garnishes of your choice (Recommended: crispy bacon, grated cheese, grated cured egg, onion greens, edible flowers)
Dice American groundnuts, maitake mushrooms, and onion into small 1/4" pieces/cubes. Set aside.
In large soup pot, cook bacon over medium heat. Remove and dry bacon strips then set aside cooked bacon. Add diced groundnuts, maitake, and onion to soup pan (still on medium heat) with bacon grease in it. Sauté ingredients for ~15 minutes. Stir with spatula regularly to ensure ingredients don't burn - turn heat down slightly if needed.
Add white wine to pot to deglaze with metal spatula or wooden spoon, then immediately add milk + chicken stock (or water/bouillon mix).
Let ingredients come to a low boil, then turn down to low heat and let cook 45-60 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pot. Leave lid off or at least partly open to allow for water evaporation.
Serve warm with garnishes of your choice.
We hope you enjoy this American groundnut and maitake mushroom chowder recipe. If you come up with some good revisions and modifications that make it even better, please share your ideas and results in the comments!
Other savory recipes you’ll love:
- Black trumpet mushroom smoked gouda soufflé
- Orzo with chanterelles and common milkweed
- Stinging nettle quiche
- One-pot turkey with kumquats and wild rice
- Lion’s mane mushroom chowder
- Lion’s mane mushroom soup with broccoli and potatoes
- Thai-inspired maitake mushroom soup (based on tom kha ghai)