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Ethnobotanical investigation of wild vegetables used among local communities in northwest Pakistan

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Wild vegetables can contribute to people’s food security and health. In northwest Pakistan, almost 40% of the households are classified as food insecure, due to increasing population and natural and man-made catastrophes. There is an urgent need to get an overview of still existing practices of wild vegetable use and to incorporate such knowledge into agricultural policies. The present study, therefore, aims to collect and analyze information on the most widely and commonly used wild vegetables in northwest Pakistan. Semistructured interviews were performed with 126 informants (26–78-year old) from all 24 districts of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. Information on culinary and medicinal use, cooking methods, and growing and harvest season were collected. A rating scale was used to get the opinion on quality, abundance, and use frequency of wild vegetables. Information on trading was gathered on local and regional markets. Transect walks were done with key informants for specimen collection. A total of 25 wild vegetable species (21 genera, 13 families) were documented. Most of them are herbs (22 spp.). One third of the species needs processing or detoxification prior to cooking. Taste and food quality as perceived by the local people are the main driver for use frequency and commercialization. Length of availability varies from 2 to 7 months with Rumex dentatus and Vicia faba also available during the winter season. Overall, 21 spp. are also used medicinally, mainly for gastrointestinal diseases. Leaves are the preferred plant part for both vegetables and medicines. Nine species are sold in markets, Bauhinia variegata and Caralluma tuberculata throughout the whole province. Local communities in northwest Pakistan have a broad knowledge of local plant use, especially on wild vegetables and their adequate processing. The present study suggests that the most commonly used wild vegetables should be promoted to reinforce food safety and most of them may also be commercialized. Conservation priority has to be given to the commercially harvested Caralluma tuberculata, which is presently overexploited.
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Article 3616 [16p.], fig.,ref.
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