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Famine Foods
Compiled by Robert Freedman


Abutilon Avicennæ, Gaertn. (syn. Abutilon Theophrasti, Medic.) China: seeds eaten raw, when green. Later, when hard, they are washed to remove their bitter taste, sun-dried, and ground into flour. Chemical composition (sample taken from seed of a wild plant): Protein = 17.4%. Fat = 16%. Carbohydrate = 33.8%. Ash = 4.4%. Vernacular names: Tientsin Jute, Button Weed,Velvet Weed, Button Print, Chingma, Maba. Ref. DARLINGTON & AMMAL, READ, UPHOF.

Abutilon indicum, G. Don.; Sweet. India (Bombay Presidency Ahmednagar district): seeds eaten. ( Rajasthan, western): seeds pounded with Bajra (millet) for chappati flour. Seeds also infused in hot water for a cooling drink. Soil type favored by plant: rocky, alluvial plains. Vernacular names - Bombay Presidency, Ahmednagar district: Kachnia. Rajasthan (western): Tarakanchi, Tara -Kanchi, Kangi /Kanghi. English: Indian Mallow. Ref. DARLINGTON & AMMAL, GAMMIE; GUPTA & KANODIA, SHANKARNARAYAN & SAXENA, WATT.

Abutilon muticum, Sweet; Webb. India (Deccan; Rajasthan,western): seeds eaten. Vernacular name - Bombay Presidency: Chakrabenda; Ref. GAMMIE, WATT.

Azanza garckeana (F. Hoffm.) Exell & Hillcoat. Fruit eaten. Vernacular name - Kikuyu: mu -Tuu. Ref. RILEY & BROKENSHA.

Bombax ceiba, Burm.; L. India (Rajasthan, western): succulent young roots roasted, and eaten after peeling off the skin. Young roots cut in to pieces, mixed with spices and eaten, or boiled and eaten raw [sic] with salt. Tender leaves are boiled with condiments and eaten. Flowers dried, pounded, and used in the preparation of bread - with or without [the addition of] corn [sic] flour. Vernacular name: Sémul. Ref. GUPTA & KANODIA, SAXENA; SHANKARNARAYAN & SAXENA.

Bombax malabaricum, DC. (syn. Bombax heptaphyllum, Cav.; Somalia malabaricum, Schott.) India (Bombay Presidency): calyx of flower- buds, and young roots eaten. The roots are cut into thin pieces and mixed with spices and salt, after being roasted over a fire and the outer skin removed. The tender leaves are also eaten, after being boiled with condiments. The flowers are dried, then pounded and finally prepared into bread, either with or without the admixture of other flour. The gum of the tree is also eaten. India (Garhwal Himalayas): buds and flowers cooked and pickled. .Vernacular names - Bombay Presidency, Khandesh district, Shahada: Sawar ; Taloda: Savri. Panch Mahals district, Godhra: Shimla. English: Silk Cotton. Ref. DARLINGTON & AMMAL, GAMMIE GUPTA.

Chamæsaracha coronopus (Dunal) Gray. North America (Arizona): fruit eaten by Native American Hopi group. Vernacular name: Small Groundcherry. Ref. MINNIS, WHITING.

Hibiscus cannabinus, L. Chad (central) : leaves eaten. Vernacular names - Arabic: Karkandji al goz. English: Deccan Hemp. Unspecified: Gamboor. Ref. CRÉAC'H; DARLINGTON & AMMAL.

Hibiscus divaricatus, R. Grsh.; Australia (South Australia, northeast; Queensland, north): roots and buds of young plants eaten raw. Ref. IRVINE.

Hibiscus heterophyllus, Buch.-Ham. ex Wall. (pan-Australia, except Western Australia): roots and shoots of young plants eaten raw. Leaves also eaten (age of plant not specified). Vernacular names: Queensland central): Queensland Sorrel, Green Kurrajong, Batham. New South Wales: Dtharang -gange. Ref. MAIDEN.

Hibiscus mutabilis, L. China: leaves boiled, then eaten with oil and salt. Vernacular names: Changing Rose, Cotton Rose, White Mallow. Ref. DARLINGTON & AMMAL, READ.

Hibiscus panduræformis, Burns. India: seeds mixed with bajri or jowari seeds and made into flour. Vernacular name - Bombay Presidency Poona district, Khamgaon Tank: Kasli. Ref. GAMMIE.

Hibiscus pentaphyllus, F. von Mueller; Roxb. Australia (South Australia, northeast): young buds eaten raw. Ref. IRVINE.

Hibiscus sabdariffa, L. Sudan: although a cultivated plant, intensive usage was reported during famine. Leaves were eaten green or dry, cooked with onions and groundnuts. Flower calyxes were used for tea, and as a base for jam. Seeds were pressed for oil, and the remaining cake was cooked seasoned with Kambo, a local condiment. Chemical composition (calyx): Protein (crude) = 10.9% (dry). Fat = 1.1% (dry). Fibre (crude) = 10.7% (dry). Ash (insoluble) = 11.5% (dry). Carbohydrate (soluble): Starch = 2.8% (dry). Sucrose = Ø %. D-glucose = 3.5% (dry). D-fructose = 0.9% (dry). Amino acids (g [16g N]-1): Aspartic acid = 39.0g. Threonine = 1.8g. Serine = 2.0g. Glutamic acid = 6.9g. Proline = 3.9g. Glycine = 2.4g. Alanine = 2.4g. Valine = 2.4g. Cysteine = 0.3g. Methionine = 0.7g. Isoleucine = 2.0g. Leucine = 3.0g. Tyrosine = 1.1g. Lysine = 2.6g. Phenylalanine = 1.7g. Lysine = 2.6g. Histidine = 1.5g. Arginine = 2.5g. Minerals: Sulphur = 0.13% (dry). Potassium = 0.13% (dry). Magnesium = 0.33% (dry). Calcium = 1.29% (dry). Na = 0.01% (dry). K = 2.53% (dry). Zinc = 41mg/kg-1 (dry). Iron = 97mg/kg-1 (dry). Manganese = 416mg/kg-1 (dry). Copper = 5mg/kg-1 (dry). Aluminum = 66mg/kg-1 (dry). Vernacular name - Arabic: Karkady. Ref. ABDELMUTI.

Hibiscus sabdariffa flowers (photo credit Dr. Omar Mohammed Salih Abdelmuti, Ph.D)

Hibiscus sabdariffa flowers

Hibiscus syriacus, L. China: leaves boiled, then eaten with oil and salt. Vernacular names: Rose of Sharon, Shrubby Althæa, Ref. DARLINGTON & AMMAL, READ.

Hibiscus tiliaceus, L. India (Bombay Presidency): mucilage and bark eaten. Stalks sucked. Vernacular name: (place not identified): Belapata, Mahoe. Ref. DARLINGTON & AMMAL, GAMMIE.

Hibiscus trionum, L. China: shoots and leaves eaten. Sudan (northern Kordofan, northern Darfur): pods used in soups and stews; sun-dried, powdered and later used in the preparation of Waika, a traditional Sudanese dish. Chemical composition (seed pods): Protein (crude) = 21.0% (dry). Fat = 0.8% (dry). Fibre (crude) = 8.4% (dry). Ash (insoluble) = 10.9% (dry). Carbohydrate (soluble): Starch = 7.3% (dry). Sucrose = 8.1% (dry). D-glucose = Ø% (dry). D-fructose = 0.7% (dry). Amino acids (g [16g N]-1): Aspartic acid = 14.4g. Threonine = 2.9g. Serine = 3.4g. Glutamic acid = 18.4g. Proline = 9.2g. Alanine = 3.8g. Valine = 4.1g. Cysteine (performic acid oxidation) = 0.6g. Methionine (performic acid oxidation) = 1.7g. Isoleucine = 2.9g. Leucine = 4.7g. Tyrosine = 2.3g. Phenylalanine = 3.2g. Lysine = 4.0g. Histidine = 1.7g. Arginine = 6.5g. Minerals: Sulphur = 0.27% (dry). Potassium = 0.65% (dry). Magnesium = 0.68% (dry). Calcium = 1.45% (dry). Na = 0.01% (dry). K = 2.51% (dry). Zinc = 94mg/kg-1 (dry). Iron = 218mg/kg- 1 (dry). Manganese = 35mg/kg-1 (dry). Copper = 12mg/kg-1 (dry). Vernacular name - English: Flower -of -an -Hour. Sudan (Arabic): Waika sara. Ref. ABDELMUTI, READ.

Malva parviflora, L.; Huds. Tunisia: young leaves gathered before the appearance of the floral button. The leaves are cooked in soups or with butter or oil and salt . Vernacular names - Arabic: Khobbeiza. Berber: Amejjir, Imejjir, Mejjir, Ouabejjir, Djir, Tir 'line,Tibbi, Ibeqoula, Balefs, Mamejjirt. India (area not specified): eaten as a pot-herb. Ref. BOUQUET, WATT.

Malva rotundifolia, Cav.; Gorter; L. Tunisia: as for Malva parviflora q.v. Ref. BOUQUET.

Malva silvestris, L. Tunisia: as for Malva parviflora q.v. Ref. BOUQUET.

Malva verticillata, L. China: stems and leaves eaten. Vernacular name: Chinese Mallow. Ref. READ.

Sida alba, L. Chad (central): leaves eaten. Vernacular name - Arabic: Am gonaba. Ref. CRÉAC'H.

Sida cordifolia, Forsk.; Griseb. India (Deccan): herb eaten. Ref. WATT.

Sphæraclea coccinea, Pursh. North America (Arizona): root eaten by Native American Navajo group. Vernacular name: Globemallow. Ref. ELMORE, MINNIS.

Urena lobata, L. Nigeria (Kano State, northern): leaves, calyces, and flowers eaten of wild type [sic] eaten. Vernacular names - Hausa: Yakuwa. Kanuri: Karasu. Ref. MORTIMORE.