Tag Archives: Persicaria vivipara

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!