Sweetvetch - Hedysarum boreale
|Wild sweet pea, Hedysarum mackenzii.|
Liquorice-roots, Hedysarum boreale, are also called sweet-vetch, because most of the species have sweet-tasting, edible roots. There are many sweet-vetch subspecies present in the Canadian Arctic, such as H. alpinum and H. mackenzii. Liquorice-root, H. alpinum, possesses fleshy roots that, when cooked, taste similar to baby carrots. The Inuit dig up these roots, peel away the outer covering and eat them raw, boiled, or roasted.
General Information and Anatomy
Hedys, meaning "sweet," refers to the fragrant flowers, and arum, meaning aroma, refers to their tantalizing "smell." Its 10–20 pink or pale purple flowers grow in slender spikes; the seed pods are flat and have three to five transparent, oval sections, each containing a seed. In comparison, northern sweet-vetch, or wild sweet pea, H. mackenzii, has sweetly scented, bright magenta flowers that are much longer than those of H. alpinum. Starkly contrasting the sweet, edible roots of the liquorice root, John Richardson reported the northern sweet-vetch to be poisonous.
The roots are a favourite among grizzly bears – a bear will excavate hundreds of square metres of earth to feed on them. Liquorice-root grows in sand and gravel, often near river banks and lake shores.