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Wild Food Plants of India

Updated: Dec 16, 2022

Wild edible plants (WEPs) refer to edible species that are not cultivated or

domesticated. WEPs have an important role to play in poverty eradication,

security of food availability, diversification of agriculture, generation of

income resources, and alleviating malnutrition means plants that grow

naturally without any cultivation or care are called wild food plants. These

plants mainly grow in forests, wilderness, edges of farmlands, and barren

fields. In the early days of the monsoon season, these vegetables are

available for consumption. These plants are eaten by a large section of the

global population and ensure both affordable food and nutritional security.

We have also shortlisted a set of plants to make an informed decision on

prioritization. The most interesting fact is that some wild plants have a

dedicated cult following in urban areas & big cities where they are sold in

special markets. Most of these wild food plants are easily accessible to the

tribal community and rural Indians. If you are wondering what are these,

then read below to find out more about wild plants.

1. Wild Colocasia -

In India, taro or wild colocasia is a common dish served in many ways. This

plant has calcium oxalate present in it, which must be removed by boiling

or baking the plant. As per some academics, it's known to have a high

amount of starch with dietary fiber present in it. The leaves of wild

colocasia are rich in various vitamins and minerals, which makes it useful

for the masses. Before cooking this plant, make sure to boil or bake for a

good amount of time in order to remove the acidity. Dishes made of taro

include saru besara (taro in mustard and garlic paste). It is also an

indispensable ingredient in preparing dalma, an Odiasuisinetaple

(vegetables cooked with dal). Sliced taro corms, deep fried in oil and mixed

with red chili powder and salt, are known as 'saru chips'. As a staple food, it

is steamed and eaten with a spicy chutney of green chilies, tamarind, and

shallots.

2. Amaranthus Viridis -

Amaranthus viridis is an annual herb with an upright, light green stem that

grows to about 60–80 cm in height. Numerous branches emerge from the


base, and the leaves are ovate, 3–6 cm long, 2–4 cm wide, with long

petioles of about 5 cm. The plant has terminal panicles with few branches,

and small green flowers with 3 stamens. It is a common vegetable in

Bengali cuisine, where it is called note shak. In the 19th Century A. viridus,

or green amaranth was an item of food in Australia. The botanist Joseph

Maiden wrote in 1889: "It is an excellent substitute for spinach, being far

superior to much of the leaves of the white beet sold for spinach in Sydney.

Next to spinach it seems to be most like boiled nettle leaves, which when

young are used in England, and are excellent. This amarantus should be

cooked like spinach, and as it becomes more widely known, it is sure to be

popular, except amongst persons who may consider it beneath their dignity

to have anything to do with so common a weed.

3. Talinum fruticosum-

It is widely grown in tropical regions as a leafy vegetable. As a leafy

vegetable, Talinum fruticosum is rich in vitamins, including vitamins A and

C, and minerals such as iron and calcium. Because it is high in oxalic acid,

consumption should be avoided or limited by those suffering from kidney

disorders, gout, and rheumatoid arthritis. It is cultivated in West Africa,

South Asia and Southeast Asia, and the warmer parts of North and South

America. Along with Celosia species, Talinum fruticosum is one of the most

important leaf vegetables of Nigeria. In Brazilit is grown along the banks of

the Amazon River, and is consumed mainly in the states of Para and

Amazonas.

4. Nelumbo nucifera -

Growing in the wild, it is a sacred flower which is commonly known as the

lotus. It’s said that all parts of this plant can be eaten but with extreme care.

From chips to fox nuts, and even a delicious curry, you can make anything

with it. The rhizomes of lotus are consumed as a vegetable in Asian

countries, extensively in China, Japan, and India: sold whole or in cut

pieces, fresh, frozen, or canned. They are fried or cooked mostly in soups,

soaked in syrup or pickled in vinegar (with sugar, chili and garlic). Lotus

rhizomes have a crunchy texture with sweet-tangy flavors and are a classic

dish at many banquets, where they are deep-fried, stir-fried, or stuffed with

meats or preserved fruits. Salads with prawns, sesame oil or coriander

leaves are also popular. Unfortunately, fresh lotus root slices are limited by


a fast browning rate. Lotus root tea is consumed in Korea. Lotus root is a

popular vegetable in Sri Lanka, where it is often cooked in coconut milk

gravy. In India, lotus root (also known as kamal kakdi) is cooked as a dry

curry or sabzi.

5. Dendrocalamus strictus -

Dendrocalamus strictus is a bamboo species belonging to the

Dendrocalamus genus. The culms(stems) are often solid. Common names

include male bamboo, solid bamboo, and Calcutta bamboo. In India,

Dendrocalamus strictus is used as vegetable and pickle. Young shoots of

Dendrocalamus strictus are edible and used as food.


Apart from these, there are hundreds of more wild plants with different

common names, cherished all over India by locals. All of these plants are

cooked in desi style by using local spices and ingredients according to the

state in which they found.


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