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Great Pignut

Bunium bulbocastanum

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Apiaceae (Carrot)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
1 metre tall
Fields, grassland, hedgerows, roadsides, scrub.

White, 5 petals
The flowers are small and appear inside umbels. Pollinated by insects.
The fruits are oblong and ridged. Similar to Pignut (Conopodium majus) but the fruit are more ridged. The seeds mature in July and August.
An erect, deciduous perennial plant with 2 to 3-pinnate leaves and narrow, linear leaflets. Similar in appearance to the much more common Pignut (Conopodium majus) but taller and more stout. Most frequent on chalk turf.
Other Names:
Black Caraway, Black Cumin, Blackseed, Cat Nut, Devil's Oatmeal, Earth Chestnut, Earth-nut, Fare Nut, Great Earthnut, Hare Nut, Hog Nut, Kipper Nut, Mountain Cumin, Pig Nut, Pignut, St Anthony's Nut, Wild Cumin.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Bunium bulbocastanum, commonly known as earth chestnut or black cumin, is a perennial herbaceous plant in the Apiaceae family. It is native to Europe and Asia. The plant has glossy, dark green leaves and small, white or pink flowers that grow in umbels. The most distinctive feature of this plant is the presence of small, edible, nut-like tubers, which are found underground and can be harvested in late summer or fall. They have a nutty, sweet taste and are used as a food source, particularly in some parts of Europe and Asia. The seeds of the plant are also used as a spice, similar to black cumin, it's not widely consumed.


Great Pignut, also known as Bunium bulbocastanum, is a plant species belonging to the family Apiaceae. It is native to Europe and parts of Asia, and is commonly found in woodland areas and hedgerows. This plant is known for its edible tubers, which have been used for centuries as a food source by indigenous communities.

The Great Pignut is a herbaceous plant that can grow up to 1 meter in height. It has slender, hollow stems and finely divided, fern-like leaves that are green in color. The plant produces small, white flowers that bloom in umbels from May to July, followed by small, round fruits that contain the seeds.

However, it is the tubers of Great Pignut that are of particular interest. These tubers are small, brown, and shaped like a flattened sphere. They have a crisp texture and a sweet, nutty flavor that is often compared to chestnuts or hazelnuts. The tubers can be eaten raw or cooked, and are commonly used in soups, stews, and salads.

Great Pignut is also valued for its medicinal properties. The plant contains a number of active compounds, including flavonoids and essential oils, which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant effects. In traditional medicine, Great Pignut has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including respiratory infections, digestive disorders, and rheumatism.

Despite its many benefits, Great Pignut is not widely cultivated as a food crop. However, it is still used as a foraged food in some parts of Europe, and has gained a following among foodies and foragers who appreciate its unique flavor and versatility in the kitchen.

Great Pignut is also known by several other names, including Earthnut, Pig Nut, and Kohl Rabi. It is a hardy plant that can tolerate a range of soil types, from sandy to clay soils, and prefers partially shaded areas with well-drained soil.

In addition to its culinary and medicinal uses, Great Pignut has also been used in folklore and superstition. In some cultures, the plant was believed to have protective powers and was used to ward off evil spirits. The tubers were also thought to have aphrodisiac properties, and were eaten by newlyweds on their wedding night to ensure fertility.

Great Pignut has also played a role in the history of agriculture. In the past, it was cultivated as a food crop in some parts of Europe, particularly in France and Italy. However, the plant fell out of favor due to the rise of other crops, such as potatoes and carrots, which were easier to cultivate and had higher yields.

Despite its decline as a cultivated crop, Great Pignut remains an important part of the ecological landscape. It is a valuable source of food for many animals, including rodents, deer, and birds. The plant also helps to improve soil health and prevent erosion, making it an important component of sustainable land management.

Great Pignut is an important component of traditional European cuisine, particularly in countries like Italy, France, and Spain. In Italy, it is known as "nocciola di terra" (earth hazelnut) and is used in dishes like risotto and soups. In France, it is often used in stews and as a flavoring for sauces. In Spain, it is used in a variety of dishes, including paella and cocido.

The tubers of Great Pignut are high in starch and are a good source of fiber, protein, and minerals like potassium and calcium. They are also low in calories and fat, making them a healthy addition to any diet.

In addition to its culinary uses, Great Pignut has also been used in natural dyeing. The roots and tubers of the plant contain a brownish-red pigment that can be extracted and used to dye wool and other fibers.

Great Pignut is also a popular plant for foraging enthusiasts, who enjoy the challenge of finding and harvesting the small, hidden tubers. However, it is important to exercise caution when foraging for Great Pignut, as it can be easily confused with other, potentially toxic, plants in the Apiaceae family.

Great Pignut is also valued for its potential as a sustainable food source. As a wild plant, it requires no fertilizers, pesticides, or irrigation, making it a low-impact and low-cost food source. It also has the potential to be cultivated on a small scale, providing a source of income for small-scale farmers and promoting local food systems.

In addition, Great Pignut has the potential to contribute to biodiversity conservation. As a wild plant, it provides habitat and food for a variety of insects and other wildlife, helping to maintain healthy ecosystems.

However, like many other wild plants, Great Pignut faces threats from habitat loss and overharvesting. In some areas, the plant has been overharvested for its tubers, leading to declines in populations. It is important to practice responsible foraging and to only harvest Great Pignut from areas where it is abundant and sustainable.

In conclusion, Great Pignut is a versatile and valuable plant species with a range of uses and potential benefits. From its culinary and medicinal properties to its ecological and economic significance, this plant is a valuable component of our natural and cultural heritage. By promoting sustainable harvesting practices and supporting local food systems, we can help to ensure that Great Pignut and other wild plants continue to thrive for generations to come.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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