Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution

, Volume 58, Issue 5, pp 783–793 | Cite as

Marsh woundwort, Stachys palustris L. (Lamiaceae): an overlooked food plant

  • Łukasz J. Łuczaj
  • Ingvar Svanberg
  • Piotr Köhler
Notes on Neglected and Underutilized Crops


The aim of this article is to study the geographical distribution and historical patterns of use of a little known root crop native to Europe—marsh woundwort Stachys palustris L. The species grows in wet grasslands and arable fields. It produces edible tubers. Both ethnographic literature and archival sources were searched. Seventeen reliable references concerning the consumption of S. palustris in southern and south–eastern Poland were found. The tubers were usually dried and powdered, and then added to soups or to bread dough. They were also eaten as raw snacks. The plant was used mainly during food shortages in spring, until the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth century, and later only as an occasional raw snack until the 1970s. Marsh woundwort was also eaten in western Ukraine (one reference). There are many references to the edibility of marsh woundwort in the eighteenth and nineteenth century European economic botany literature, particularly in Sweden and Great Britain. These publications tried to popularize the use of S. palustris as food. However, there is no firm evidence from these countries that marsh woundwort was used as food there. Marsh woundwort was also used, throughout northern and central Europe, as pig fodder and as a medicinal plant, particularly for healing wounds. Further studies on the nutritive value of this forgotten crop should be undertaken, particularly that there is little knowledge of the chemical composition of both marsh woundwort and its Asian relative Stachys affinis widely cultivated in China as a vegetable.


Edible tubers Famine plants Food propaganda Sium sisarum Stachyose Stachys affinis Stachys palustris Stachys sieboldii 



Many thanks to Dr Wojciech Adamowski (University of Warsaw), anonymous reviewers as well as the editors of the journal for helping us with our literature search.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Łukasz J. Łuczaj
    • 1
  • Ingvar Svanberg
    • 2
  • Piotr Köhler
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of EcotoxicologyUniversity of RzeszówKolbuszowaPoland
  2. 2.Uppsala Centre for Russian and Eurasian StudiesUppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden
  3. 3.Institute of BotanyThe Jagiellonian UniversityKrakówPoland

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