We went for a slow amble this morning – The Dog is still limping a little, but she needs her fresh air. We pottered down to the beck, pretty much as we always do, actually. On the way we noticed that the Silverweed was in flower. Our patch of Silverweed grows between two clumps of Buttercups, so we had to be careful that we were looking at Silverweed flowers, not Buttercups. The Dog became bored with all this rooting round in the vegetation, trying to trace the flower stalk back to its parent plant, and sat down in the middle of the road to wait.
The French name for the plant is Richette, this roughly translates as, “wealthy with gold and silver,” – it’s on the Internet, so it must be true. This is a reference to the gold of the flowers and the silver of the leaves. The leaves are silver because they are covered with fine hairs that reflect the light. Last year, I noticed that by the end of the growing season, the leaves had lost their silvery sheen and had become a boring green colour.
But it’s the roots that saved the world. In Ireland, during the infamous Famine and Clearances of the 1840s, many of the disinherited starving were able to eke out their existence by eating the Silverweed roots. In Scotland too it has saved many lives in time of hardship and in the Outer Hebrides it is known as The Poor Man’s Potato.
In Celtic folk lore it is called “The Seventh Bread” – with the obvious inference that when things were hard it would give you one last resource.