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Famine Foods
Compiled by Robert Freedman

POLYGONACEAE

The Buckwheat family

Calligonum polygonoides, L.; Pall. India (Rajasthan): the buds of this plant are picked during February and March, when food is scarce. They are eaten with buttermilk and salt; (Western Rajasthan): fruit usually eaten raw; buds and flowers eaten as vegetable. (Jaipur, Jodhpur, Bikanir, Kishengarh, Jaisalmer): smooth stems and branches, abortive [sic] flowers and small succulent fruit eaten. Flowers made into bread or cooked with ghee (clarified butter) or coconut oil. Chemical composition (after Hooper): Albumenoids = 12.03% (dry). Ash = 11.10% (dry). Nitrogen = 1.92% (dry). Phosphoric acid = .38% (dry). Silicates = .38% (dry). Soil types favored by plant: sand dunes and sandy, undulating plains. Vernacular names - Rajasthan (Jaisalmer district) (plant): Phog; (bud): Lassan. Rajasthan (western), Punjab, Sindh (fruit): Phog. Also: Phogla, Phogalli (fruit); Tirni (root). Trans-Indus, Afghanistan: Balanja, Berwaja, Tatuke. Ref. BHANDARI, HOOPER, SAXENA; SHANKARNARAYAN & SAXENA

Fagopyrum cymosum, Meissn. India (Garhwal Himalayas): leaves boiled and eaten as vegetable. Ref. GUPTA.

Fagopyrum tataricum, Gaertn. India (Kumaon region, Western Himalayas): fruit (?) eaten; (Garhwal Himalayas): leaves boiled and eaten as vegetable; nuts [sic] eaten; seeds used for making flour. Vernacular name - Kumaon Region: Phapar. Ref. BHARGAVA.

Lapathum alpinum, Lam. France: starch of root recommended as a famine food, for extending bread flour, after removal of toxic element. Ref. PARMENTIER.

Lapathum aquaticum, Scop. France: starch from root recommended as a famine food for extending bread flour, after removal of bitter element. Ref. PARMENTIER.

Lapathum sylvestris, Lam. France: starch of root recommended as a famine food for extending bread flour, after removal of toxic element. Ref. PARMENTIER.

Polygonum aviculare, L.; Bert. ex Meisan; Kar. & Kir. France: seeds recommended as a famine food to be mixed with "Saracen" wheat. China: leaves and shoot eaten. Manchuria: tips of shoots eaten. Chemical composition: Sugar = 2.5%. Ash = 2.44%. Very rich in zinc. Vernacular names: Knotweed, Gooseweed. Ref. BARANOV, PARMENTIER, READ.

Polygonum bistorta, L. Norway: the thick roots, rich in starch, are dried and ground into flour. During the famine of 1740-1742, the flour was made into bread, or boiled in milk, saving many lives [sic]. Vernacular names: Bistort, Snake Root, Passion Dock, English Serpentary. Ref. SAYCE, UPHOF.

Polygonum cuspidatum, Sieb. & Zucc. China: shoots and leaves eaten. Vernacular names: Japanese Fleece-flower, Siebold's Knotweed. Ref. READ, UPHOF.

Polygonum divaricatum, L. Manchuria: tips of shoots eaten. Ref. BARANOV.

Polygonum glabrum, Willd. South Australia (northeastern): stems broken up, lightly cooked and pith eaten. India (Balarampur): fruit [sic] parched and made into a kind of Sattu ; (Chutia Nagpur; Assam): plant eaten as a pot-herb - pungent leaves cooked in small quantities with other vegetables. Vernacular names - India (Santal): Sauri arak, Jioti. Balrampur, Oudh: Larboma, Bih langani bonka. Assam: Patharua. Bombay: Rakta rohia. Tamil: Aatlaria. Malayalam: Sckoranna mudela mucca. Ref. HOOPER, IRVINE.

Polygonum heterophyllum, Linden. Manchuria: tips of shoots eaten. Ref. BARANOV.

Polygonum Hydropiper, L. China: stems and leaves eaten. Malaya: young leaves used as flavoring. Australia (North Queensland, Flinders River): stalk roasted, then peeled and eaten. Chemical composition (Chinese sample): Protein = 7.54%. Fat = 1.86%. Carbohydrate = 7.99%. Ash = 1.99%. Vernacular names: Smartweed, Water Pepper. Ref. IRVINE, READ.

Polygonum limosum, Kom. Manchuria: tips of shoots eaten. Ref. BARANOV.

Polygonum multiflorum, Thunb. China: roots are washed, sliced with a bamboo knife, soaked overnight, boiled in changes of water to remove the bitter principle, washed again, steamed, re-boiled and then eaten. The flowers are also eaten. Vernacular name: Flowery Knotweed. Ref. READ.

Polygonum nodosum, Pers, Manchuria: leaves eaten. Ref. BARANOV.

Polygonum orientale, L. China: leaves, shoots and seeds eaten. Leaves are boiled or steamed. Manchuria: leaves eaten. Vernacular name: Prince's Feather. Ref. BARANOV, READ.

Polygonum persicaria, L. China: stems and leaves eaten. Chemical composition: Tannin = 1%, Fat = 1.9%. Pectins = 5.4%. Sugars = 3.5%. Cellulose = 27.6%. Small percentage of volatile oil containing the camphor-like principle persicariol. Vernacular name: Lady's Thumb. Ref. READ.

Polygonum plebeium, R. Br. India: the leaves are used as famine food at Pakur, Ranchi, Manbhum Monghyr, Balasore, and Mirzapur. South Australia: seeds crushed on stones, cooked and eaten in the form of dampers. Chemical composition (after Hooper): Water = 69.36% (fresh). Fat = 2.95% (dry). Albumenoids = 17.38% (dry). Carbohydrates = 50.37% (dry). Fibre = 16.15% (dry). Ash = 15.15% (dry). Nitrogen = 2.78% (dry). Phosphoric acid = .61% (dry). Silicates = 3.27% (dry). Vernacular names - Bengali: Chimtee sag, Chemiti sag, Dubia sag, Jaloo, Pipra, Kethu, Mechheia sag, Chakai madranga sag. Santal: Raniphul, Merie arak. United Provinces: Machichi, Choti machhaichhie. Ref. HOOPER, IRVINE.

Polygonum rigidum, Skv. Manchuria: tips of shoots eaten. Ref. BARANOV.

Polygonum stagninum, Buch.-Ham. ex Meiss. in Wall. India (region unspecified): used as a pot-herb in times of scarcity. Chemical composition: Water = 76.82% (fresh). Fat = 3.16% (dry). Albumenoids = 18.28% (dry). Carbohydrates = 40.00% (dry). Fibre = 15.05% (dry). Ash = 23.51% (dry). Nitrogen = 2.92% (dry). Phosphoric acid = .48% (dry). Silicates = 11.72% (dry). Vernacular name - Bengal: Ratooti sag. Ref. HOOPER.

Rumex acetosa, L. Scandinavia: used as a base for bread. Vernacular name: Sorrel Dock. Ref. DARLINGTON & AMMAL, DILLINGHAM (1906).

Rumex Acetosella, L. Sweden: seeds gathered and ground into flour to make flat bread called sygrasbrod. The seeds also have been found in the stomach remains of human corpses disinterred from a bog at Boremose, in Jutland.Vernacular name: Sheep Sorrel. Ref. DARLINGTON & AMMAL, SAYCE.

Rumex hastatus, Don. India (Garhwal Himalayas): leaves acrid to taste and made into chutney. Ref. GUPTA.

Rumex maritimus, E. Mey. ex Meissn. (syn. Rumex garipensis, Meissn.) India (area unspecified): eaten as vegetable. Ref. HOOPER.

Rumex vesicarius, L. India: leaves boiled, by Sudras. Vernacular names - Assam: Sukha sak. Rajamundry: Suka kora. Ref. HOOPER.


Last update Friday, March 6, 1998 by aw