Saturday, June 2, 2012

"Man of the Earth" or "Wild Potato Vine", Ipomoea Pandurata

Wild Potato Vine is also called "Man of the Earth" or "Man Root", Morning Glory and Bigroot Morning Glory.  It is a perennial vine with heart shaped flowers and purple stems.

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 White  funnel shaped flowers with ruby/purple throats are a good indicator.

Wild Potato Vine and I have a history.  It has been eluding me for years.  Yes, I have been searching for this plant with the giant edible tuber for at least  seven years, in my spare time of course, and today, I finally found it so I couldn't wait to cook and try it.  So today is a great day and I feel wonderful.  If I were still the deer hunter I was in my youth, it would be like bagging a trophy buck.

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The heart shaped "morning glory" shaped leaves are another indicator.

The Latin name for Wild Potato Vine is Ipomoea Pandurata.  Daniel Moreman states that the Cherokee Indians ate the roots for food.  Elias talks about the edibility and so does the Peterson Field Guide, which also states the raw root is a purgative, so I'd suggest cooking first.

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The large edible tuber is the final indicator.  It even smells like a sweet potato.

The trouble with locating the wild potato vine is that it is part of a very large family of vines called morning glory that all look very similar; matter of fact, there are around 68 species in the morning glory family.  I have dug up many a morning glory over the years only to be disappointed not finding the large edible tuber associated with "Man of the Earth".  However, like most edible plants, once you locate it and eat it the first time, you'll never forget it so it makes it much easier to find.

Once you find the tuber, you will know it.  They grow up to 24 inches long straight down and there is a little bit of digging involved but it's worth the trouble.  This particular tuber was 12 inches long and 2 1/2 inches in diameter.

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I know this looks like you might need a chainsaw to cut, but a kitchen knife is all that's needed.
The root/tuber looks like a large vertical yam and wild yam is also a vine with heart shaped leaves, although some wild yams are poisonous.

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 Boil out any bitterness in the older tubers with a few changes of water.

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Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees and bake 40 minutes like baked potatoes

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It looks like a tree, but it's actually tender and pliable.

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Cut off the outer bark and cut the inner tuber into smaller strips. 

These tubers smell like sweet potato.  The baked strips above feel slightly sticky.  I ate a few unseasoned and I have no comparison to the taste as it has a taste all its own.  The texture however, reminds me of steak, or maybe roast. 

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The final product with butter, salt and pepper.  Delicious.

If you look at the above picture, it should remind you of meat.  It does me.  Actually, Man of the Earth has a texture that reminds me of eating meat; maybe a roast, thick porch chop or even the texture of steak.  The smell is like sweet potato, but not the taste.  I truly enjoyed cooking and eating this.  It was definitely not a starvation food for the Native Americans because it actually tastes really good and it is very nutritious.   The tubers are usually one of the most nutritious parts of just about any plant.  It is where the plants energy is stored.  In the plant kingdom, this would have been a great find for any Native American as it would have supplied food and calories for him for several days.

I read that the root was often cut into strips, dried and stored for later use.  The size of this plant supplied way to much food for me to eat, so I will dry it in the sun and try it later just like the Native Americans did.


  1. Hello! I have almost positively identified this plant in my yard and in the area. There's quite a bit of it, everywhere. I've seen this plant for the last 20 some odd years and always suspected it was pandurata, but never dug it up. This summer, I'm going to dig up a bunch of them, and then try growing it here in my gardens, plus eating it of course. I just published an article about Ipomoea pandurata on my blog at, if you'd like to read it. Or maybe it was on facebook. Look up Tristate forager's community.

  2. Hello Frank. I have thought about transplanting some because they are fairly easy to find once in bloom. The issue is it does take some serious digging, especially a larger root. The larger, the tougher when you cook as well. I would think as long as you transplanted the undamaged tuber very quickly, maybe even shove it is some damp sand on the way to its new location and put it in the ground fast, that it would do quite well. Let me know how it goes.