Wild Food Plants and Fungi Used in the Tibetan community of Zhagana


Wild food plants and fungi used in the mycophilous Tibetan community of Zhagana (Tewo County, Gansu, China)

Kang J, Kang Y, Ji X, et al
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2016 Jun 1;12(1):21
PubMed Central: PMC4890536

Investigators from Northwest A&F University, Yangling Vocational & Technical College, Bailongjiang Forestry Administration Bureau, University of Gdansk, Polish Academy of Sciences, Centre de recherches linguistiques sur l’Asie orientale, University of Glasgow, and University of Rzeszów conducted field research to investigate knowledge and use of wild food plants and fungi in a highland valley in the Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Region on the north-eastern edges of the Tibetan Plateau.

Pteridium aquilinum
Pteridium aquilinum (Photo: Rasbak, Wikimedia Commons)

The team conducted field research in four neighboring villages in a mountain valley of Diebu (Tewo) county, interviewing villagers singly and in groups (altogether 63 informants) and collecting voucher specimens. DNA barcoding was used to identify fungi. They recorded the use of 54 species of vascular plants and 22 mushroom taxa. The most frequently mentioned wild foods included wild vegetables (Pteridium aquilinum, Notopterygium incisum, Allium chrysanthum, Allium cyaneum, Chenopodium album); fungi (Lactarius deliciosus, Ramaria spp.); fleshy fruits (Fragaria orientalis, Ribes alpestre); and two species used as staple foods (Persicaria vivipara and Potentilla anserina).

The authors note impacts of modernity and tourism in their discussion of the traditional uses of the plants:

“Most wild vegetables and mushrooms are usually boiled, sprinkled with hot oil and served as side-dishes. Wild fleshy fruits are collected mainly by children and eaten raw. Some green parts of plants are eaten as raw snacks: plants with a sour taste (Rumex leaves, Rheum peeled stalks), solidified spruce sap and nectar sucked out of flowers.

“In times of famine or grain scarcity Persicaria vivipara fruits were mixed with barley and used to make flour. This was practiced even up until the 1980s. Other wild staples are the small tubers of Potentilla anserina. They are still gathered now, but are treated only as ceremonial foods, being served during New Year celebrations, funerals and other ceremonial occasions. Their rarer use stems from a very tedious gathering procedure. The tubers are dug out by women in late autumn or early spring. One woman can gather 0.5–1 kg of tubers per day. In the past they also constituted emergency food. Several informants observed changes in the frequency with which wild foods are collected: adults collect and eat less wild vegetables and children snack less on wild fruits. Most people usually use only a few wild vegetables, such as Allium spp., Pteridium and Notopterygium. Some people have stopped eating Chenopodium and Urtica. Due to the increasing involvement of tourism in the valley in the last 5 years, people do not have time to gather fungi in summer, at the peak of the tourist season.

“Practically all families dry wild vegetables for later use, however they do not lacto-ferment them. People usually dry bracken (Pteridium) fronds, Nothopterigium leaves and wild garlic (Allium) flower heads. They also dry a few species of mushrooms, mainly morels (Morchella conica) and milk velvet caps (Lactarius deliciosus var. deterrimus). Morels are an important article of commerce, as is the medicinal Cordyceps sinensis mushroom, which was regarded by our informants as medicinal and not an edible mushroom. Some of our informants stored a few large sacks of morels for sale.”

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

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