The University Gardens
Historical plants of Bergen

Conopodium majus (pignut)

An ancient treat, and not just for pigs.

Conopodium majus
Michael Pirie, UiB

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This is a plant most people who grew up in Western Norway will recognise. Martin Vahl, a student of Linnaeus, wrote in his 1760 travel report from Bergen about how children and pigs eagerly dig up the tubers of pignut and eat them. It was also used during World War I as a substitute for almonds, for example in baking.

The prevalence of variants of the Norwegian name, Jordnøtt, across Europe indicates an older common origin. In Normandy, the plant is called by names like “jarnotte”, or “jérnot”, corresponding to “yarnut”, or “arnut” and in Northern England. Probably the name is borrowed words from Old Norwegian jarðnot that came with the Vikings from Western Norway.

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