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

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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.

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JOURNAL OF ETHNOBIOLOGY AND ETHNOMEDICINE
Ethnobotanical investigation of 'wild' food plants used by rice farmers in Kalasin, Northeast Thailand CruzGarcia and Price
CruzGarcia and PriceJournal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine2011,7:33 http://www.ethnobiomed.com/content/7/1/33 (8 November 2011)
CruzGarcia and PriceJournal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine2011,7:33 http://www.ethnobiomed.com/content/7/1/33
JOURNAL OF ETHNOBIOLOGY AND ETHNOMEDICINE
R E S E A R C HOpen Access Ethnobotanical investigation ofwildfood plants used by rice farmers in Kalasin, Northeast Thailand 1,2*2,3Gisella S CruzGarciaand Lisa L Price
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:total of 87 wild food plants, belonging to 47 families were reported, mainly trees, herbs (terrestrial andA 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
Background The collection and consumption ofwildplant foods from agricultural and nonagricultural ecosystems has been documented in multiple cultural contexts, illustrat ing their use and importance among farming households throughout the world [13]. The evidence to date sug gests that gathering by farmers occurs in various
* Correspondence: gisella.cruz@wur.nl Contributed equally 1 Centre for Crop Systems Analysis, Department of Plant Sciences, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands Full list of author information is available at the end of the article
environments, ranging from intensively farmed areas, to more subsistence oriented horticultural systems, and finally in more pristine areas such as forests. This is cer tainly the case of rice farmers in Asia [4]. For example, Ogle et al. [5,6] found that in the Mekong Delta of Viet nam 90% of women eat wild vegetables, uncovering a total of 94 species. Kosaka [7], in his research on flora from the paddy rice fields in Savannakhet, Laos, recorded 11 edible species from a total of 19 herbaceous useful plants, and 25 food trees out of 86 useful species. The documentation ofwildfood plant gathering and consumption in mainland Southeast Asia is still
© 2011 CruzGarcia and Price; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.