FIELD HORSETAIL (EQUISETUM ARVENSE) AS A FOOD PLANT
in the 19th century. The tubers were eaten
in northern Russia, as well as in Belarus,
and regarded as a delicacy by the popula-
tion (Maurizio, 1927: 69; Zelenin, 1927:
119; Moszynski, 1967: 32). The Nenets of
northern Russia prepared a soup of the ear-
ly spikes and also used it as stuffmg in
pirogues (Manninen, 1931: 35). According
to a 19th century report from Solvychegod-
sk, Vologda govemment, many Russian
families were able to survive the spring by
eating horsetails, the only food stuff avail-
able for them. From Vjatka it is reported
that only the children ate horsetails. In
Poland it has been used as a famine food
(Maurizio, 1927: 108-109).
In Japan the spikes are eaten after being
boiled as a dish called tsukushi. The Japan-
ese also consume them salted and when
kept in vinegar mixed with soy, after being
boiled in water (Loew, 1907: 109; Uphof,
1968: 201; Iwatsuki, 1995: 19).
Our references show that E. arvense has
been used as a food plant in Eurasia and
North America. Not only the tubers were
used as food, as on the Faroe Islands, but
also the spikes. Recent folk tradition from
northern Europe indicates that the horse-
tails were eaten mostly by children. This
was actually the case with many other edi-
ble plants as well. Ghildren were also in
much more need of fresh vegetables as vit-
amin sources than adults (cf Høeg, 1974;
Svanberg, 1997c). However, older sources
from the 18th century and from some mar-
ginal areas, show that the tubers and spikes
were eaten by all inhabitants. The changing
food habits with the access to more food
through the development of national and
international trade in the 19th century most
probably made it obsolete as a spring food
plant. However, it survived as a kind of
treat for children in Europe. It is of course
difficult to identify the plant once eaten by
the Romans. However, it is more likely that
they ate E. arvense rather than any other
species of the genus. The knowledge of an
ancient food plant actually survived on the
Faroe Islands and in various parts of Conti-
nental Europe, in East Asia and North
America until recently.
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