Famine Food

The roots of SILVERWEED were eaten as a marginal or famine food both in the Scottish Highlands (MacGregor), and in Ireland (Drury. 1984). They were roasted or boiled (Fernie), or even eaten raw, or they could be ground into meal to make porridge, and also a kind of bread (Drury. 1984). Perhaps not so marginal, for Carmichael says that it was used a lot before the potato was introduced. Records of cultivation go back to prehistoric times. Particularly remembered for the cultivation of Brisgein (its Gaelic name) is an area of North Uist, in the Outer Hebrides, where a man could sustain himself on a square of ground of his own length. The Gaelic Bliadhna nan Brisdeinan means Year of Silverweed roots. This year was shortly after the Battle of Culloden, and is remembered in Tiree as a year of great scarcity. The land had been neglected in previous years due to the state of the country, and the silverweed sprang up in the furrows, and people made meal of them (Campbell. 1902), the "seventh bread" (MacGregor).

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