Wild Food Plants Used by Tibetans of Gongba Valley

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Wild food plants used by the Tibetans of Gongba Valley (Zhouqu county, Gansu, China)

Kang Y, Luczaj L, Kang J, Wang F, Hou J, Guo Q
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2014 Feb 6;10:20
PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3933068

Gansu Province, Tibet
Gansu Province, Tibet [source: TUBS, Wikimedia Commons]
Yongxiang Kang of Northwest A&F University, with colleagues at that institution and the University of Rzeszów and the Forestry Academy of Bailongjiang Forestry Administration Bureau, conducted a study of wild food plants used by people of the Gongba Valley.

The authors note the paucity of data in this area:

“Ethnobotany research in China, concerning wild food plants, has so far been concentrated mainly on Yunnan and Inner Mongolia, also as far as wild food is concerned. Although some papers on the use of wild food plants have been published from other parts of China, some provinces are seriously under-studied ethnobotanically. An example of such a place is the province of Gansu, for which we found only one small article on wild vegetables, and only for the easternmost part of the province inhabited by Han Chinese. Gansu is an ethnic mosaic of a few ethnic groups: Han Chinese, Hui and Tibetans. In spite of the tremendous cultural diversity of different Tibetan ethnic groups and their diverse plant use, there is relatively little ethnobotanical literature devoted to the Tibetan people in China. There is a particularly scarce ethnobotanical literature concerning the use of wild food plants by Tibetans, also in other provinces, with only one major article on the wild food uses of the Tibetans in Shangri-La (NW Yunnan).”

On the basis of field research carried out in a wooded mountain valley in 9 neighboring villages in the Zhouqu (Brugchu) county, and comprising 17 interviews with single informants and 14 group interviews, involving 122 people altogether, the team documented 81 species of wild food plants.

Caltha palustris
Caltha palustris [source: Jasper33, Wikimedia Commons]
The most commonly eaten fruits, which are mainly collected by children and eaten raw, include Pyrus xerophila, Prunus salicina, Berchemia sinica, Rubus spp. and Eleagnus umbellata. The most widely used wild vegetables include Eleuterococcus spp., Pteridium aquilinum, Helwingia japonica, Aralia chinensis, Allium victorialis, Pteridium aquilinum, Ixeris chinensis, Thlaspi arvense and Chenopodium album.

The authors note that “culinary use of Caltha palustris as a green vegetable is very interesting. In its raw state, marsh marigold is a toxic plant, due to the presence of protoanemonin. In this area it is dried or lactofermented before use.”

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

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