From a typical famine-food plant, leaves, stalks, inflorescence, roots (tubers and corms and rhizomes) or barks (mainly of Acacia sp.) are edible. Many of the root-type famine-food plants are drought tolerant and can stay in the soil intact for a long time. Therefore, they can be collected when the need is greatest. Most of the leafy-type famine-food plants are locally referred to and classified as 'weeds', sprouting and flourishing after rains. They generally mature within a short period of time (about two weeks). There are two main periods of maximum consumption of the leaves and tender parts of such famine-food plants. The first period is while farmers are waiting for the upcoming crop harvest and, the second main period is when they run out of food stocks from the previous harvest, and are hence facing a food shortage. People try, whenever possible, to add famine-food to local staple foods or to mix it with other foodstuff to mask the often offensive nature of the food and to reduce any characteristic and unpleasant side effects. At present approximately 50 wild-food plant species are listed and classified as typical famine-food plants from an approximate total of 120 listed wild-food species.
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