Foods Indigenous to the Western Hemisphere

Spring Beauty

Claytonia virginica

By Jeremy Trombley

Every year, one of the first signs that Spring has arrived is the blooming of these small blue or white flowers. Some people may know of the plant for this quality, but only a few people are aware that, beneath the ground, these beautiful flowers harbor an edible tuber. Known as Fairy Spuds, the tubers are smaller than potatoes measuring only a couple of inches long, and are irregularly shaped. They are, however, easy to collect once a patch of flowers has been identified. Simply dig the ground with a hoe or potato rake, and they will appear. Only the larger varieties should be harvested, as the smaller ones, if left in the ground, will flower again the next year and be ready for harvest.

Once the tubers are harvested, they can be cooked in any number of ways. The preferred method is to simply boil them and then eat them out of hand. The flavor is said to resemble potatoes as well as boiled chestnuts with their slightly sweet quality. They can also be fried, baked, or mashed, and are as versatile as potatoes. The young plant itself can also be used as a vegetable similar to lettuce.


Fernald, Merritt Lyndon. Edible Wild Plants of Eastern North America. Rev. New York: Harper, 1958.

Gibbons, Euell. Stalking the Wild Asparagus. Field guide ed. New York: D. McKay, 1962.