"Here we go gathering nuts in May Nuts in May, nuts in May Here we go gathering nuts in May On a cold and frosty morning"
Pignut (Conopodium majus) has always fascinated me. It has delicate cream flowers, and even more delicate little leaflets. Pignut grows up to 40cm high and is fairly unassuming. Much smaller than its cousins cow parsley and hemlock (which is deadly), it is a member of the umbellifer, or carrot, family. It grows under hedgerows, in grassland, and through woodlands.
So what does that have to do with the rhyme above?
Well nuts, tree nuts such as hazelnut & walnut ripen in the autumn. In spring however food from the wild is scarce. Pignut tubers, attached to the roots, were long used as a source of sustenance. They taste a little like chestnuts. Children were often sent out to collect them along with greens and other items to supplement the diet. Pignut have many names, showing how regionally popular they were. Some of these are fairy potatoes, jarnut, hawknut, earth chestnut, groundnut, and earthnut. I love the idea of them being fairy potatoes
If you want to try gathering Pignuts remember that it is an offence to uproot a wild plant, so look for ones in gardens and please just take what you need.
Also do not eat anything you can't 100% identify, it could make you very ill.