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Famine Foods
Compiled by Robert Freedman


Aletris japonica, Lamb. China: leaves eaten with oil and salt. Vernacular name: Star Grass. Ref. READ.

Aletris spicata, Franch. China: leaves eaten with oil and salt. Ref. READ.

Allium monanthum, Maxim. Manchuria (eastern forests): whole plant eaten. Ref. BARANOV.

Aloe barbadensis, Mill, India (Rajasthan, western): cooked with bajra (millet) flour or made into a paste mixed with sugar. Leaf pulp used to increase flour bulk. Tender pith and fleshy leaves after washing several times used for making bread after mixing with corn [sic] flour. Vernacular names - Guarpatha, Ghritkumari, Ghikumar. Ref. GUPTA & KANODIA, SAXENA; SHANKARNARAYAN & SAXENA.

Aloe Barteri, Baker. Africa (west): blossoms used as a soup vegetable. Ref. IRVINE, UPHOF.

Aloe Cooperi, Baker. Zululand (Ubombo district): interior of stalk removed and cooked. Vernacular name - Zulu: Icena. Ref. HELY- HUTCHINSON.

Aloe indica, Royle. India: leaf-bud or 'cabbage' eaten. Ref. WATT.

Aloe littoralis, Baker. India: leaf bud, or 'cabbage' eaten. Ref. WATT.

Aloe vera, L.; Mill. (syn. Aloe officinalis, Forsk.) India: leaf-bud or 'cabbage' eaten. Ref. WATT.

Aloe vulgaris, Lam. India (Madras Presidency): leaf-bud, or 'cabbage,' and tender pith are eaten. (Kumaon region, Western Himalayas): pulp eaten; (Garhwal Himalayas): pulp pickled. Vernacular names - Tamil: Kuthalay. Telugu: Kalabanda. Kumaon region: Gaikwar. Ref. BHARGAVA, GUPTA, SHORTT.

Anemarrhena asphodeloides, Bunge. China: root eaten. Ref. READ.

Asparagus Pauli-Guilelmi, Solms.-Laub. Africa (west): the tubers of this wild variety are boiled, then eaten. It is noted that they grow to a large size near ant hills. Ref. IRVINE, UPHOF.

Asparagus racemosus, Willd. India ( Rajasthan, western): fasciculated roots eaten as vegetable; (Garhwal Himalayas): tender shoots including stem eaten. Soil types favored by plant: rocks, piedmont plains, gravelly. Vernacular names - Rajasthan (western): Satavar, Satabari. Ref. GUPTA; GUPTA & KANODIA, SAXENA; SHANKARNARAYAN & SAXENA.

Asparagus sarmentosis, L.; Heyne. India (Deccan): roots eaten. Ref. WATT.

Asphodelus albus, Boiss.; Mill.; Nees.; Willd. France: root recommended as a famine food. After cooking and reducing to a pulp, it is suggested it be blended into a confection with barley and buckwheat flour. Ref. PARMENTIER.

Asphodelus fistulosus, L. France: root recommended as a famine food. Prepared as for Asphodelus albus (q.v.). India: tubers eaten. Ref. PARMENTIER, WATT.

Asphodelus tenuifolius, Cav. India (Garhwal Himalayas): seeds eaten raw. Ref. GUPTA.

Calochortus Nuttallii, Torr. & Gray. North America: bulb boiled and roasted, then made into flour by some Native groups. Vernacular names: Mariposa Lilly, Sago -Lilly. Ref. CARR, UPHOF.

Chlorophytum parviflorum, Dalz. in Hook. (syn. Chlorophytum laxum, R. Br.) India (Deccan): leaves eaten. Ref. WATT.

Chlorophytum tuberosum, Baker. India (Bombay Presidency): bulbs and leaves eaten. Bulbs and leaves dried and pounded into flour for bread. Vernacular names - Bombay Presidency: Khandesh district, Shirpur: Safed mosali. Nasik and Ahmednagar districts: Kolu. Surat district, Walore: Sevni. Rajasthan (western): Safed -musli. Ref. GAMMIE.

Colchicum commune, Neck. France: starch of root recommended as a famine food for extending bread flour, after removal of bitter element. Ref. PARMENTIER.

Geitonoplesium cymosum, A. Cunn. (syn. Geitonoplesium montanum, A. Cunn.; Geitonoplesium angustifolium, A. Koch; Luzuriaga cymosa, R. Br.; Luzuriaga montana, R. Br.). Australia (Victoria; New South Wales): young shoots eaten. Improvement of plant through selection recommended by Mueller. Ref. MAIDEN.

Hemerocallis fulva, L. China: flowers, leaves, shoots and roots eaten. Root can be prepared into flour from which cakes [sic] are made. Chemical composition (flowers): Protein = 9.3%. Fat = 25%. Ash = 0.9%. Carbohydrate = 60% (rich in sugar). Rich in Vitamin A and some B vitamins. Vernacular name: Orange Day Lilly. Ref. READ.

Heterosmilax japonica, Kunth. China: no details on use given. Vernacular names: China Root, T 'u fu ling. Ref. SCHAEFER in CHANG.

Lilium Brownii, Spae.; Poit.; F.E. Brown. (syn. Lilium odorum, Planch.; Lilium candidum, Lour.). China: bulbs eaten boiled in honey, or [dried and?] made into flour. Chemical composition: Protein = 2.4%. Fat = 0.5%. Carbohydrate = 30.9%. Ash = 1.23%. Contains some Vitamin C. Vernacular name: Lilly Root. Ref. READ.

Lilium japonicum, Thunb. China: bulb eaten. Ref. READ.

Liriope spicata, Lour. China: tuber eaten. Chemical composition: Protein = 1.59%. Fat = 0.52%. Carbohydrate = 80.1%. Ash = 2.26%. Characteristically mucilaginous. Vernacular name: Black Leek. Ref. READ.

Nothoscordum andicola, Kunth. Peru (Vilcanota Valley, hills of Canchis): bulbs boiled. Reported to have a "garlicky" taste, and liked for its flavor. In some places, it is also collected on a regular basis. Vernacular name - Quechua: Chullkus. Ref. GADE 1975, 1994.

Ophiopogin japonicus, Ker.-Gawl. China: tubers eaten. Ref. READ.

Ornithogalum gramineum, Lam.; Peopp.; Sims. France: root recommended as a famine food, boiled in water, roasted or sliced and fried. Ref. PARMENTIER.

Ornithogalum luteum, L.; Tenore. France: root recommended a famine food boiled in water, roasted, or sliced and fried. Ref. PARMENTIER.

Ornithogalum umbellatum, L. Middle East: a famine food cited in the Hebrew Old Testament (II Kings 6:25). The bulbs were ground up after numerous boilings, to eliminate the poisonous principles, then mixed with cereal flour to make bread. A pint of these bulbs sold for about $3.00, during a severe Samarian famine. Europe: it may also have been eaten during the English famine of A.D. 1316. Vernacular names: Star -of -Bethlehem; Dove's Dung, Pigeon Dung, Bird's Milk. Ref. CALCOTT, MOLDENKE.

Polygonatum falcatum, A. Gr. China: shoot and root eaten. Root is steamed and sun-dried nine times. Must be fully grown when processed, otherwise it stings the throat. Vernacular name: Deer Bamboo. Ref. READ.

Polygonatum multiflorum, Allen. China: rhizome eaten. Ref. READ.

Polygonatum officinale, Allen; Moench. China: leaves and rhizomes milled and eaten. Manchuria (eastern forests): whole plant eaten. Chemical composition: contains fructose, glucose and arabinose. Characteristically mucilaginous. Rhizome indicated to be toxic. Vernacular name: Solomon's Seal. Ref. BARANOV, READ, UPHOF.

Polygonatum vulgare, Gueldenst. China (northern): rhizome eaten. Ref. READ.

Scilla chinensis, Benth. China: bulb eaten. Must be soaked for a long time and boiled until it is very thoroughly cooked. It is reported the bulb produces gas and rumbling in the belly. Vernacular name: Squill. Ref. READ.

Scilla japonica, Baker. China: as for Scilla chinensis. Ref. READ.

Urginea indica, Kunth. India (Deccan): leaves eaten. Ref. WATT.

Last update Thursday, February 26, 1998 by aw