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Open Access Research

Ethnobotanical investigation of 'wild' food plants used by rice farmers in Kalasin, Northeast Thailand

Gisella S Cruz-Garcia12* and Lisa L Price23

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Crop Systems Analysis, Department of Plant Sciences, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands

2 Department of Social Sciences, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands

3 Department of Anthropology, Oregon State University, Corvallis Oregon, USA

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Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 2011, 7:33  doi:10.1186/1746-4269-7-33

Published: 8 November 2011

Abstract

Background

Wild food plants are a critical component in the subsistence system of rice farmers in Northeast Thailand. One of the important characteristics of wild plant foods among farming households is that the main collection locations are increasingly from anthropogenic ecosystems such as agricultural areas rather than pristine ecosystems. This paper provides selected results from a study of wild food conducted in several villages in Northeast Thailand. A complete botanical inventory of wild food plants from these communities and surrounding areas is provided including their diversity of growth forms, the different anthropogenic locations were these species grow and the multiplicity of uses they have.

Methods

Data was collected using focus groups and key informant interviews with women locally recognized as knowledgeable about contemporarily gathered plants. Plant species were identified by local taxonomists.

Results

A total of 87 wild food plants, belonging to 47 families were reported, mainly trees, herbs (terrestrial and aquatic) and climbers. Rice fields constitute the most important growth location where 70% of the plants are found, followed by secondary woody areas and home gardens. The majority of species (80%) can be found in multiple growth locations, which is partly explained by villagers moving selected species from one place to another and engaging in different degrees of management. Wild food plants have multiple edible parts varying from reproductive structures to vegetative organs. More than two thirds of species are reported as having diverse additional uses and more than half of them are also regarded as medicine.

Conclusions

This study shows the remarkable importance of anthropogenic areas in providing wild food plants. This is reflected in the great diversity of species found, contributing to the food and nutritional security of rice farmers in Northeast Thailand.

Keywords:
Wild food plant; ethnobotany; rice ecosystem; edible part; use; growth location; growth form; gathering; Thailand; Southeast Asia