Edible wild plant use in the Faroe Islands and Iceland

Ingvar Svanberg, Sigurður Ægisson

Abstract


This paper reviews the use of wild edible plants in the Faroe Islands and Iceland from the times of the first settlement of Norse people in the Viking age until today, with a special emphasis on the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Animal products have been an important source of nutrients for the islanders of northern Atlantic. Cultivation of cereals on the other hand has played a minor role, and had already been abandoned by late medieval times in Iceland and by the early 20th century on the Faroes. Crops such as potatoes, turnips and other roots were only grown in the small patches of cultivated soil. Wild plants have therefore been of some importance for the Faroese people and the Icelanders; in the last centuries especially for the rural poor and during times of recessions. The native Angelica archangelica L. was gathered in the wild and also cultivated in gardens for centuries. A few species have been part of the regular food staple. Some plants are still gathered and made into food products by small companies, especially in Iceland. In the Faroes, the economic aspect of edible wild plant taxa is mostly of historical interest, although a few products of A. archangelica are sometimes available. Two taxa have been exploited as regular food exclusively in Iceland: Cetraria islandica (L.) Arch. and Elymus arenarius L. Icelanders have used C. islandica from the early settlement days and continue to do so today, E. arenarius became obsolete as a food plant a century ago.

Keywords


wild food plants; algae; lichens

Full Text:

PDF

References


Svanberg I, Łuczaj Ł, Pardo-de-Santayana M, Pieroni A. History and current trends of ethnobiological research in Europe. In: Anderson EN, Pearsall DM, Hunn ES, Turner NJ, editors. Ethnobiology. Hoboken NJ: Wiley-Blackwell; 2011. p. 191–214.

Łuczaj Ł, Szymański WM. Wild vascular plants gathered for consumption in the Polish countryside: a review. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2007;3(1):17. http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1746-4269-3-17

Guðjónsson SV. Folkekost og sundhedsforhold i gamle dage: belyst igennem den oldnordiske litteratur. København: Arnold Busck; 1941.

Jonsson G. Changes in food consumption in Iceland, 1770–1940. Scand Econ Hist Rev. 1998;46(1):24–41. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03585522.1998.10414677

Zutter C. Wood and plant-use in 17th–19th century Iceland: archaeobotanical analysis of Reykholt, Western Iceland. Environmental Archaeology. 2000;5:73–82.

Tómasson T. Iceland: country report to the FAO international conference on plant genetic resources. Leipzig: FAO; 1996.

Guttesen R. Food production, climate and population in the Faeroe Islands 1584–1652. Geogr Tidsskr. 2004;104:35–46.

Guttesen R. Plant production on a Faeroese farm 1813–1892, related to climatic fluctuations. Geogr Tidsskr. 2001;101:67–76.

Rasmussen H. Die Nahrungsforschung auf den Färöer. Ethnol Eur. 1971;5:49–52.

Joensen JP. Fiskafólk. Ein lýsing av føroyska húshaldinum í slupptíðini. Tórshavn: Føroya Sparikassi; 1982.

Kristinsson H. A guide to the flowering plants and ferns of Iceland. Reykjavik: Örn og Örlygur; 2010.

Jóhansen J. Studies in the vegetational history of the Faroe and Shetland Islands. Tórshavn: Føroya Fróđskaparfelag; 1985. (Annales Societatis Scientiarum Færoensis; vol 11).

Harshberger JW. The gardens of the Faeroes, Iceland, and Greenland. Geogr Rev. 1924;14(3):404. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/208421

Jóhansen J. Medicinal and other useful plants in the Faroe Islands before ad 1800. Bot J Scotl. 1994;46(4):611–616. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13594869409441771

Svanberg I. The use of wild plants in the Faroe Islands 1590–1990: a contribution to Scandinavian ethnobotany. Svenska Linnésällskapets Årsskrift. 1998;1996–1997:81–130.

Svanberg I. Plant knowledge as indicator of historical cultural contacts: tanning in the Atlantic fringe. In: Pieroni A, Vandebroek I, editors. Traveling cultures and plants: the ethnobiology and ethnopharmacy of migrations. Oxford: Berghahn Books; 2007. p. 227–244.

Guðmundsson G. Gathering and processing of lyme-grass (Elymus arenarius L.) in Iceland: an ethnohistorical account. Veg Hist Archaeobot. 1996;5(1–2):13–23. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/BF00189431

Olafsen E. Vice-Lavmand Eggert Olafsens og Land-Physici Biarne Povelsen Reise igiennem Island, franstaltet af Videnskabernes Sælskab i Kiøbenhavn. Sorø: Videnskabernes Sælskab; 1772. (vol 1–2).

Svabo JC. Indberetninger fra en Rejse i Færøe 1782 og 1783. København: Selskabet til Udgivelse af færøske Kildeskrifter og Studier; 1959.

Rasmussen R. Gróðranýtsla fyrr í tíðini: til matna, til lækningar, til litagerðar og til ídnaðar. Tórshavn: Landnám; 1946.

Halldórsson B. Grasnytjar. København: August Friedrich Stein; 1783.

Kristjánsson L. Íslenzkir sjávarhættir. Reykjavík: Menningarsjóður; 1980. (vol 1–5).

Høeg OA. Planter og tradisjon Floraen i levende tale og tradisjon i Norge 1925–1973. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget; 1974.

Turner NJ, Łuczaj ŁJ, Migliorini P, Pieroni A, Dreon AL, Sacchetti LE, et al. Edible and tended wild plants, traditional ecological knowledge and agroecology. Cr Rev Plant Sci. 2011;30(1–2):198–225. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07352689.2011.554492

Holmboe J. Mura (Potentilla anserina L.) og dens bruk som matnyttig plante i ældre og nyere tid. Svensk Botanisk Tidskrift. 1928;22:160–168.

Svanberg I. Field horsetail (Equisetum arvensis) as food. Fróðskaparrit. 1997;45:45–55.

Mohr N. Forsøg til en islandsk naturhistorie, med adskillige oekonomiske samt andre anmærkninger. København: Christian Friderik Holm; 1786.

Svanberg I. Kvannen (Angelica archangelica) på Färöarna och Island. Gardar: Årsbok för Samfundet Sverige-Island i Lund-Malmö och Samfundet Sverige-Färöarna. 2008;38:22–28.

Skaale Ö, Johannesen M. Matur og matgerð. 5th ed. Tórshavn: Bókaforlagið Grønalið; 1990.

Nordal A. Über einige norwegische volksmedizinische Skorbut-Pflanzen, und ihren Vitamin-C-Gehalt. Nytt Mag Naturv. 1939;79:193–231.

Debes LJ. Færoæ et Færoa Reserata, det er: Færøernis oc færøeske Inbyggeris beskrifvelse. København: Matthias Jørgensøn; 1673.

Bjarnason AH. Íslensk flóra með litmyndum. Reykjavík: Iðunn; 1983.

Aaronson S. Algae. In: Kiple KF, Ornelas KC, editors. The Cambridge world history of food. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2000. p. 231–249.

Albuquerque UP, Hanazaki N. Five problems in current ethnobotanical research – and some suggestions for strengthening them. Hum Ecol. 2009;37(5):653–661. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10745-009-9259-9

Joensen HD. Um hvonnina í Føroyum, serliga um nýtsluna til matna og um hvannsárið. Varðin. 1951;29:129–154.

Simonsen M. Konurák. Tórshavn: Mentunargrunnur Studentafelagsins; 1989.

Fosså O. Angelica: from Norwegian montains to the English trifle. In: Hosking R, editor. Wild food: proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, 2004. Totnes: Prospect books; 2006. p. 131–142.

Mehler M. From self-sufficiency to external supply and famine: foodstuffs, their preparation and storage in Iceland. In: Klápste J, Sommer P, editors. Processing, storage, distribution of food food in the Medieval rural environment. Turnhout: Brepols; 2011. p. 173–186.

Gísladóttir H. Substitutes for corn in Iceland. In: Lysaght P, editor. Food from nature. Uppsala: The Royal Gustavus Adolphus Academy for Swedish Folk Culture; 2000. p. 148–154. (Acta Academiae Regiae Gustavi Adolphi LXXI; ).

Nelson MC, Svanberg I. Lichens as food: historical perspectives on food propaganda. Svenska Linnésällskapets Årsskrift. 1987;1986–1987:7–51.

Whitney CW. A survey of wild collection and cultivation of indigenous species in Iceland and the Faroe Islands [Master thesis]. Witzenhausen: University of Kassel; 2011.

Whitney CW, Gebauer J, Anderson M. A survey of wild collection and cultivation of indigenous species in Iceland. Hum Ecol. 2012;40(5):781–787. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10745-012-9517-0

Łuczaj ŁJ, Dumanowski J, Köhler P, Mueller-Bieniek A. The use and economic value of manna grass (Glyceria) in Poland from the middle ages to the twentieth century. Hum Ecol. 2012;40(5):721–733. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10745-012-9513-4