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Famine Foods
Compiled by Robert Freedman

ARACEAE

Acorus calamus, L. China: rhizome peeled and washed to remove acrid element. It is eaten out-of-hand like fruit. Chemical composition: 1% volatile oil; a bitter glucoside - acorin. Rich in starch. Ref. READ, UPHOF.

Amorphophallus aphyllus, Englmn. Sudan (western): tubers dried, then boiled to remove the acrid element. Eaten in times of scarcity by the Wolof people of the Cayor region. Ref. IRVINE.

Amorphophallus companulatus, Blume ex Decne. India (Madras Presidency): tubers eaten after boiling. Found in hills and forests. Vernacular names - Tamil: Kurruna kalungu. Telugu: Konda, Muncha kunda. Ref. SHORTT.

Amorphophallus consimilis, Blume. Sénégal/Guinea: tubercules eaten. The tubercule is pounded, and boiled for a long time with the leaves of Cissus gracilis, Guill. & Pers. [VITIDACEAE] and with the fruit of Spondias mombin, L.; Jacq. [ANACARDIACEAE]. This preparation is reported to cause a sore throat. Among the Basari, the old women especially eat this. When it is poorly prepared and irritates the throat, this can be cared for by chewing the young shoots of Pilisostigma Thonningii, Hochst. (syn. Bauhinia Thonningii, Schum; Bauhinia reticulata, DC. [CÆSALPINIACEAE]. Vernacular names - Basari (tubercule): Apaty. Bedik: Gingi. Ref. FERRY et al.

Amorphophallus dracontioides (Hook.) Hutchinson in Hutchinson & Dalziel; N.E. Br. (syn. Hydrosme dracontioides, Engl.) Africa (west): corms eaten after being cut up, repeatedly washed, and boiled for one or two days. Nigeria (Kano State, northern): tuber eaten. Requires two days' boiling to detoxify. Vernacular names - Hausa (plant ?): Gwazar giwa ; (root/rhizome): Kinciyar. Ref. IRVINE, MORTIMORE.

Amorphophallus sylvaticus, Kunth. India (Deccan): tubers and leaves eaten. Ref. WATT.

Arisæma curvatum, Hook.; Kunth. India: roots eaten. Ref. WATT.

Arisæma Murrayi, Hook. India (Bombay Presidency): corms cooked in water and mixed with salt and chili peppers. Vernacular names - Poona and Ahmednagar districts, Bombay Presidency: Dhudhda, Diwa. Junnar, Poona district, Bombay Presidency: Baddha. Ref. GAMMIE.

Arisæma tortuosum, Schott. India: corms cooked in water and mixed with salt and chili peppers. This plant grows in the highlands where there is heavy rainfall. Vernacular names - Poona and Ahmednagar districts, Bombay Presidency: Dhudhda, Diva. Junnar, Poona district, Bombay Presidency: Baddha. Ref. GAMMIE.

Arisarum simorrhinum, Dur. Tunisia: the running root-stock is gathered, dried, pulverized and mixed with the flour of barley (Hordeum vulgare, L. [POACEAE]) or wheat (Triticum sp.) It contains 70% starch and has a reportedly strong, bitter flavor. Excessive intake has resulted in serious intoxication. This reaction is particularly likely with regard to Arum italicum, Rafin. (q.v.) and Arum maculatum, Rafin. (q.v.), the bulbous root-stocks of which contain hydrocyanic (Prussic) acid. Vernacular names - Arabic (Tunisia): Ouden el-fil, Cebot el-ghoula, Kelb el-beqouqa, Rejel el begra. Berber: Tioughda, Tiqqenousine, Quaba, Abbouq, Taourza, Airni, Hierni, Idjened, Tikilmout. Ref. BOUQUET.

Arisarum vulgare, Tarq. -Tozz. Tunisia: as for Arisarum simorrhinum, Dur. Corm may measure up to 3 cm in width. Habitat: along Egyptian Mediterranean coast, in non-saline depressions and barley fields. Inorganic composition in parts per million: N = 9,700. P = 1390. Na = 1,380. K = 12,300. Ca = 3.380. Mg = 1,750. Z = Ø. Cu = 5.2. Fe = 79.6. Mn = 7.1. B = 7.9. Al = 19.8. Si = 179.0. Ti = 1.7. Sr = 179.0. Ba = 6.1. Sn = 4.7. Pb = 16.8. Ref. BOUQUET; EL - GHONEMY et al.

Arum dracunculus, L. France: starch of root recommended as a famine food for extending bread flour, after removal of acrid element. Ref. PARMENTIER.

Arum incurvatum, Lam. France: starch of root recommended as a famine food for extending bread flour, after removal of acrid element. Ref. PARMENTIER.

Arum italicum, Rafin. Tunisia: as for Arisarum simorrhinum. Ref. BOUQUET.

Arum lyratum, Roxb. (syn. Amorphophallus lyratus, Kunth.). India (Madras Presidency): roots eaten after careful boiling. Vernacular names - Tamil: Kondai rakis. Telugu: Konda rakis. Ref. SHORTT.

Arum maculatum, Rafin. Tunisia: as for Arisarum simorrhinum. Ref. BOUQUET.

Arum vulgare, Lam. France: starch of root recommended as a famine food for extending bread flour, after removal of acrid element. Ref. PARMENTIER.

Calla palustris, L. France: starch of root recommended as a famine food for extending bread flour, after removal of acrid element. Sweden: unidentified part of plant used in preparation of bread. Bengladesh: greens eaten; roots may be boiled with rice or cooked as curry and may contain chemical component which can irritate mouth and throat. Vernacular name: Water Dragon. Bangladesh: Kachu. Ref. DARLINGTON & AMMAL, DILLINGHAM (1900), PARMENTIER, RAHAMAN.

Colocasia esculenta Schott (syn.Caladium esculentum, Vent.; Colocasia antiquorum, Schott.) (Shortt gives "Calladem esculuntum," the genus and species probably being misspelled). India (Madras Presidency): leaves and leaf -stalks eaten as greens. Kapingamarangi: leaves of the wild taro eaten. Vernacular names - Tamil: Sainmay keeray, Shamay kilangu. Telugu: Chama kura, Chama dumpa. Ref. CURREY, SHORTT.

Colocasia himalensis, Royle. India (Kumaon region, Western Himalayas): rhizomes either boiled and cooked, or roasted in ashes; (Garhwal Himalayas): rhizome eaten after being cooked like the cultivated species [sic]; leaves fried in oil; fleshy peduncle cut in pieces and cooked in curries. Vernacular name - Kumaon region: Dhakol. Ref. BHARGAVA, GUPTA.

Colocasia nymphæfolia, Kunth. India (Madras Presidency): tubers cooked and eaten. Vernacular names - Tamil: Karoonay kilangu. Telugu: Gadda kanda. Ref. SHORTT.

Dracontium polyphyllum, L.; A. Cunn. ex A DC. in DC; Denst. Schleuss.; Forst f.; Houtt. India: tuber eaten. India (Madras Presidency): cooked tubers eaten. Vernacular names - Tamil: Kaat curna. Telugu: Adive kanda. Ref. SHORTT, WATT.

Pistia stratiotes, L. India: used as a famine food in 1877-1878. Herb is recorded as eaten at other tjmes. China: young leaves eaten cooked. Philippines: used to treat gonorrhea. Plant has a high potash content, and contains stinging crystals. Occurs in great abundance on the surface of stagnant water and slowly-moving streams. Ref. BROWN, BURKILL, WATT.

Sauromatum guttatum, Schott. India: as for Dioscorea sativa. Ref. GAMMIE.

Spathyema foetida (L.) Rafin. Native American: rootstock used as an emergency food dried or baked, to improve the taste. Vernacular name: Skunk Cabbage. Ref. HARRIS, KEPHART, PARKER, RUSBY, WAUGH, YANOVSKY.

Stylochiton lancifolium, Kotschy. & Peyr. Nigeria (Kano State, northern): leaves and rhizome eaten. Poisonous. Requires repeated boiling of young leaves and rhizome to detoxify. Vernacular names - Hausa (plant): Gwandai ; rhizome/root: Kinciyar. Kanuri (plant): Ngurra. Ref. MORTIMORE.

Stylochiton Warneckii, Engl. Africa (west): the thickened rhizome is repeatedly washed in ashes, the lye in which leaches out toxic saponins and raphides. The leaves are boiled to remove the toxins and are eaten with locally prepared salt called Absen. Ref. IRVINE, UPHOF.

Synantherias sylvatica, Schott. India: root, petioles and leaves eaten. Ref. WATT.

Theriophonium Dalzellii, Schott. India: leaves eaten. Ref. WATT.

Typhonium bulbiferum, Dalz. in Hook. India: bulb and leaves eaten. Ref. WATT.

Typhonium divaricatum, Decne. India: bulbs and leaves eaten. Ref. WATT.


Last update Tuesday, January 20, 1998 by aw