Past & Present

Foraging and Exploring

Before we move on from stories of Scarp, it was interesting to learn in Angus Duncan’s book of the native plants which he and the other children would seek out to eat as they roamed about the island. Roots of the silverweed were gathered, and would be roasted by the open fire to sweeten the taste.

Silverweed.jpgSilverweed    (Photo: Laurie Campbell)

The root of the wild carrot was popular, eaten raw, but only tender enough before the flower formed.

Wild carrot.jpgWild Carrot    (Photo: Laurie Campbell)

A very specific part of the bird’s-foot trefoil was selected; the flower was picked off and only the calyx at the base of the flower was eaten. 

birdsfoot trefoil.jpgBird's-foot Trefoil    (Photo: Laurie Campbell)

Angus Duncan recalled gathering the flowers of tufted vetch and eating them in handfuls.

Tufted Vetch.jpgTufted Vetch    (Photo: Laurie Campbell)

It seems that blaeberries, or wild blueberries, were reasonably plentiful in Scarp when Angus Duncan was a boy, and they used to seek the berries out for a treat in the autumn. This is a plant favoured by grazing animals, so is a rare treat indeed in areas where livestock free range in any numbers.

Blaeberries.jpgBlaeberries    (Photo: Laurie Campbell)

The only other plant mentioned as being sought by the children of Scarp as a treat, was the lousewort. This I was familiar with from my own childhood, growing up in Lewis in the 1970s. The older children showed us how to pluck the individual flowers and suck the sweet nectar from the tube-like base.

Lousewort.jpgLousewort: the name really doesn’t do it justice! (Photo: Laurie Campbell)


Sea pink.jpgSea-pink or thrift (Photo: 58 North)

Lichens.jpgLichens of the rocky shore (Photo: Laurie Campbell)

When recounting his childhood wanderings in Scarp, Angus Duncan vividly described the places they explored and the games they played. He remembered the soft feel of the cushions of thrift beneath his bare feet as he walked along the rocks of the Mol Mòr islet, a welcome relief from the prickly goat’s beard lichen which covered the rocks. Isn’t that just the kind of small detail that stays with you throughout your life, of the places you roamed freely as a child and knew in such intimate detail; memories that stay with you no matter how far you are from your native shore.

By Joan Cumming, 2014

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