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Famine Foods
Compiled by Robert Freedman


The Spurge family

Acalypha Indica, L.; Vell. India (Madras Presidency): leaves eaten as vegetable; (Rajasthan, western): leaves eaten. Vernacular names - Tamil: Koopay maynei. Telugu: Hurita munjari. Western Rajasthan: Khotke, Khotka, Kkokhali. Ref. GUPTA & KANODIA, SAXENA, SHORTT, WATT.

Adelia barbinervis, Schlecht. & Cham. Yucatan: the tender leaves and shoots are cooked as greens in times of famine, by the Huastec Maya. Common in milpa regrowth community. Vernacular name - Teenek: Ata '. Ref. ALCORN.

Bridelia retusa, Spreng. India (Garhwal Himalayas): fruit eaten raw. Ref. GUPTA.

Croton reflexifolius, HBK. Yucatan: leaves eaten as a famine food by the Huastec Maya. Common in milpa regrowth community. Vernacular name - Teenek: Oliy ['slick', 'smooth']. Ref. ALCORN.

Embelica officinalis, Gaertn. India (Garhwal Himalayas): fruit eaten raw; made into preserves and pickled. Ref. GUPTA.

Euphorbia balsamifera, Ait. Nigeria (Kano State, northern): shoots and leaves eaten. Vernacular name - Hausa: Aliyara. Ref. MORTIMORE.

Euphorbia caducifolia, Haines. India (Rajasthan, western): succulent leaves boiled, water discarded and eaten as vegetable. Vernacular name - Thor. Ref. SAXENA; SHANKARNARAYAN & SAXENA.

Euphorbia geniculata, Orteg. Kenya (Mbeere division, Embu district): leaves eaten. Vernacular names - Kikuyu: ka -Riaria, ka - Bunga -iiri. Ref. RILEY & BROKENSHA.

Euphorbia heliscopia, L. China: leaves eaten with oil and salt. Vernacular names: Sunspurge, Wartweed. Ref. READ.

Euphorbia humifosa, Willd. China: shoots and leaves eaten. Vernacular name: Spurge. Ref. READ.

Euphorbia pilulifera, L. India (Madras Presidency): leaves and tender shoots eaten as greens. Vernacular names - Tamil: Amumpatchay arisee. Telugu: Bidarie, Nanabeeam. Ref. SHORTT, WATT.

Euphorbia thymifolia, L.; Forsk.; Pursh.; Wall. India (Deccan): herb eaten. Ref. WATT.

Macaranga Roxburghii, Wight. India (Deccan): fruit eaten. Ref. WATT.

Manihot glaziovii, Muell. Kenya (Mbeere division, Embu district): tuberous roots (and leaves?) eaten. Vernacular name - Kikuyu: mu -Bira. Ref. RILEY & BROKENSHA.

Manihot utilissima, Pohl. (syn. Manihot esculenta, Crantz.) Gabon (French Equatorial Africa): the rind of the manioc is eaten during times of famine. It is prepared similarly to manioc itself. The rind is cut into small pieces and washed in running water for one or two days to detoxify it. The pieces are then either smoke-dried, or sun-dried. They are then cooked in a sauce of palm-oil. Before this second cooking, however, the pieces are carefully soaked in water which gives them a spongy consistency similar to mushrooms. Sudan (Tukma, southern Kordofan): flour prepared from the dried tuber; used as a substitute for sorghum and for the preparation of porridge and kisra (a flat bread), after extensive boiling to remove cyanogenic glucosides. Chemical composition (after Abdelmuti): Protein (crude) = 3.0% (dry). Fat = 1.0% (dry). Fibre (crude) = 4.3% (dry). Ash = 3.3% (dry). Carbohydrate (soluble): Starch = 75.5% (dry). Sucrose = 2.8% (dry). D-glucose = 1.9% (dry). D-fructose = 2.2% (dry). Amino acids (g [16g N]-1): Aspartic acid - 5.0g. Threonine = 2.0g. Serine = 3.0g. Glutamic acid = 10.0g. Proline = 7.3g. Glycine = 2.7g. Alanine = 3.7g. Valine = 3.3g. Cysteine = 0.7g. Methionine = 0.7g. Isoleucine = 2.0g. Leucine = 3.7g. Tyrosine = 1.7g. Phenylalanine = 2.0g. Lysine = 2.7g. Histidine = 2.0g. Arginine = 4.0g. Vernacular names - Gabon: Ingwese, Aloti. Sudan (Arabic): Bafra. Ref. ABDELMUTI, WALKER.

Manihot esculenta root (photo credit Dr. Omar Mohammed Salih Abdelmuti, Ph.D)

Manihot esculenta root

Phyllanthus urinaria, L. China: leaves eaten with oil and salt, Plant is characteristically diuretic, due to the presence of large quantities of potash. Vernacular name: Leaf -Blossom. Ref. READ.

Pseudolachnostylis maprouneifolia, Pax. var. glabra (Pax.) Brenan. Tanzania (Ngindoland): ripe fruit eaten. The skin is usually but not always discarded. Pips are discarded, unless famine is very severe, as they may cause constipation, owing to their size. Vernacular name - Mpujnpujn. Ref. CROSS-UPCOTT.

Securinega leucopyrus, Brand.; Muell. India (Western Rajasthan): young shoots and leaves eaten. Soil type favored by plant: gravelly. Vernacular name - Arg. Ref. GUPTA & KANODIA, SAXENA; SHANKARNARAYAN & SAXENA.

Securinega virosa (Roxb. ex Willd.) Baill. Kenya (Mbeere division, Embu district): fruit eaten in millet gruel during periods of famine. Also eaten by herd boys in bush areas. Common on rocky and stony hillslope outcrops. Vernacular name - Kikuyu: mu - Kuuru. Ref. BROKENSHA & RILEY, RILEY & BROKENSHA.