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Famine food

A famine food or poverty food is any inexpensive or readily-available foodstuff used to nourish people in times of extreme poverty or starvation, as during a war or famine. Quite often, the food is thereafter strongly associated with the hardship under which it was eaten, and is therefore socially downplayed or rejected as a food source in times of relative plenty.

Foods associated with famine need not be nutritionally deficient. A number of famine foods are extremely nutritious--thus their use to nourish and ward off hunger--but the conditions under which they were eaten are often the primary cause of people's subsequent aversion to these foods.

Examples of famine foods

A number of foodstuffs have been strongly associated with famine, war, or times of hardship throughout history:

  • The breadnut or Maya nut was cultivated by the ancient Mayans, but is largely rejected as a poverty food in modern Central America.
  • Rutabagas were widely used as a food of last resort in Europe during World War I, and remain particularly unpopular in Germany.
  • In Polynesia, the Xanthosoma plant (known locally as 'ape) was considered a famine food and was used only in the event that the taro crop failed.
  • The fruit of the Noni, sometimes also called "starvation fruit," has a strong smell and bitter taste which often relegates it to the level of a famine food.
  • The nara melon of southern Africa is sometimes eaten as a food of last resort.
  • Several species of edible kelp, including dulse and Irish moss, were eaten by coastal peasants during the Irish Potato Famine of 1846-1848.
  • Sego lily bulbs were eaten by the Mormon pioneers when their food crops failed.
  • Tulip bulbs and Sugar beets were eaten in the German occupied parts of the Netherlands during the "hunger winter" of 1944-45.

Positive uses of famine food

The term "famine food" has also been used to describe --edible plants which are not widely cultivated as food, but which could be cultivated as an alternative food source in the event of widespread crop failure.

See also

  • Staple food
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Famine_food". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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