Tag Archives: Polygonum viviparum

Habby-Dandy MacCheese 

A wonderful birthday dinner yesterday!
As is the tradition since I left home, my birthday dinner has been Macaroni Cheese with rhubarb crumble for dessert. Mac Cheese was the first veggie dish I ate back in the 60s – Mum took us to Edwin Jones in Southampton (the superstore of the time) where they served it in the restaurant. We loved it and it became a traditions for Mum to make this every Tuesday! Nowadays, we use whole grain spelt macaroni with masses of greens…Hablitzia or Caucasian spinach ( stjernemelde) and dandelion (løvetann). On the top, we used dried alpine bistort (harerug) bulbils! 
This one time rhubarb crumble is the only time I eat sugar each year, something I’ve kept up now for the last 20 years.
Dedicating this to my dear Mum…it’s after all her 65th birth day too!

Foraging Alpine Bistort Bulbils

On Sunday, we went for a walk up to a mountain farm (seter) near to the lake Foldsjøen in Malvik with the main aim to gather alpine bistort (harerug) bulbils (Polygonum viviparum / Persicaria vivipara) to dry for the winter. This is one of the 80 plants in my book and I grow various accessions of this plant also in my garden! See also my post on 25th June: http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=22680
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ou can often find large quantities of this plant in open sheep pasture and dampish meadows.  I hadn’t been to this “seter” before and right enough there were large amounts of this plant, although the bulbils were still not fully grown.  We walked from Verket, an outdoor museum on the site of Mostadmark Jernverk, the site of an old iron furnace (see https://www.malvik.kommune.no/mostadmark-jernverk.6168342-478994.html) up through the forest past Hulåsen to the seter, returning via Slåttdalen and returning along the side of the lake. We didn’t meet a single person or car all the way! At the end you can also see a number of pictures and films of nature and some fungi we found along the way!

Here’s a short film showing thousands of flowerheads in a damp meadow (the flowers are sterile, the plant almost only multiplying vegetatively by bulbils):

 

Harerug bread

Harerug? Literally meaning “Hare rye” is a plant found in Norway from the outermost coast to the high mountains and is also one of the few edible plants of Svalbard in the high arctic! It’s Polygonum viviparum (Persicaria vivipara) or alpine bistort in English, in the Knotweed family or Polygonaceae along with many other edible plants such as giant rhubarb and Japanese knotweed and the sorrels and docks. Despite its small size, it has been an important survival food for arctic peoples including in some Norwegian mountain villages in the past as plants have comparatively large nutritious and tasty tubers! I’ve been using the bulbils (hence the latin viviparum meaning living birth as these fall off and form roots giving plants that are genetically identical to the mother plant). They have a delicious nutty taste, something my kids loved as a trail snack in the mountains. Indeed this is a plant one should learn if one is in the mountains as in the event of getting lost, one will still be able to find food. It is a particularly common plant above the tree line here!
It’s also circumpolar as the map in the album shows, even found in the alps and Himalayas.  I have a number of different forms in my garden and there are also closely related species which are larger that I believe could have an even bigger potential as a cultivated mountain / arctic crop. There’s a robust subspecies in North America I’d love to get hold of…(Flora of North America: “… with large leaves, compact spikes, and persistent bulblets…. named subsp. macounii”).  It’s also one of the 80 in my book Around the World in 80 plants!