Using experience with bambara groundnut (Vigna subterranea), this paper examines how local knowledge, genetic evaluation, research in fields, glasshouses and laboratories, and crop simulation modelling might be linked within a methodological framework to assess rapidly the potential of any underutilized crop. The approach described is retrospective in that each activity was not clearly defined and structured at the outset. However, the experience gained may help to establish a methodology by which growers, researchers and international agencies can integrate their knowledge and understanding of any particular underutilized crop and apply similar principles to accelerate the acquisition of knowledge on other underutilized species. The use of a methodological framework provides a basis for activities that maximize knowledge, minimize duplication of effort, identify priority areas for further research and dissemination, and derive general principles for application across underutilized crops in general. It also allows policy makers and planners to make comparative decisions on the nutritional, economic and research importance of different underutilized and more-favoured species. In particular, the incorporation of a generic crop simulation model within the methodological framework may assist growers, extension agencies and scientists to refine general recommendations for any particular crop to local conditions. Also, the incorporation of information gathered from the field, laboratory or market can be used to update rapidly the predictive capacity of the model for each crop.