Traditional Knowledge of Wild Food Plants in a Few Tibetan Communities


Traditional knowledge of wild food plants in a few Tibetan communities

Boesi A
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2014 Nov 3;10:75
PubMed Central PMC4232625

The investigator, Alessandro Boesi, presents the results of nearly a decade of field research data on wild food plant use in Tibetan regions, providing a general perspective on their significance in past and present Tibet, and examining the concept of wild edible plants as medicinal plants.

From the paper’s Background:

“Wild plants have always represented an important resource for Tibetan populations, notably for cattle breeding, house construction, tool manufacture, as a source of fuel (mainly in the form of yak dung), dying materials, and perfumes. For more than a millennium Tibetan medical practitioners have been relying, to prepare their remedies, on many plants growing in the wild, several of which have also been collected and traded by professional and occasional dealers. In meadows and pastures Tibetan children play with flowers. People place on altars in houses and temples flowers collected in the wild. Greatly appreciated for their beauty and fragrance as offerings to divinities, plants are also used in religious ceremonies. Tibetan medical texts describe the miraculous creation of certain plants through the intervention of divinities and religious personages. And, last but not least, wild plants have been collected to be consumed as food, the subject matter of this article.”

Potentilla anserina
Potentilla anserina [Source: Wikimedia Commons, Rasbak]
The author documents 75 total wild food plants and mushrooms used as vegetables, spices\condiments, fruits, ferments to prepare yoghurt and beer, substitutes for tsampa (roasted barley flour, the traditional staple food of Tibetan people), substitutes for tea, and to prepare other beverages. Among these are a number wild edible plants that are well-known and/or exploited over Tibetan regions including Allium spp., Potentilla anserina, and Polygonum spp.

From the Conclusion:

“Tibetans have traditionally exploited few wild food plants. These mainly compensate for the lack of vegetables and fruit in traditional Tibetan diet, notably among pastoralists, and are far more important during famines as substitutes for roasted barley flour. Today few wild food plants are regularly consumed, less in the main towns and villages and moreso in remote areas and among pastoralists. Younger generations from towns have almost lost traditional botanical knowledge. Owing to modernisation and globalisation processes, many local people have specialised in collecting natural products increasingly demanded in China and abroad. Tibetan people strongly benefit from these activities. Tibetan medicine sees diet as a way of curing diseases and medical treatises describe therapeutic properties of several wild food plants that Tibetans nowadays consume.”

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

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