The association among food and health is momentous as consumers now demand healthy, tasty and natural functional foods. Knowledge of such food is mainly transmitted through the contribution of individuals of households. Throughout the world the traditions of using wild edible plants as food and medicine are at risk of disappearing, hence present appraisal was conducted to explore ethnomedicinal and cultural importance of wild edible vegetables used by the populace of Lesser Himalayas-Pakistan.
Data was collected through informed consent semi-structured interviews, questionnaires, market survey and focus group conversation with key respondents of the study sites including 45 female, 30 children and 25 males. Cultural significance of each species was calculated based on use report.
A total of 45 wild edible vegetables belonging to 38 genera and 24 families were used for the treatment of various diseases and consumed. Asteraceae and Papilionoideae were found dominating families with (6 spp. each), followed by Amaranthaceae and Polygonaceae. Vegetables were cooked in water (51%) followed by diluted milk (42%) and both in water and diluted milk (7%). Leaves were among highly utilized plant parts (70%) in medicines followed by seeds (10%), roots (6%), latex (4%), bark, bulb, flowers, tubers and rhizomes (2% each). Modes of preparation fall into seven categories like paste (29%), decoction (24%), powder (14%), eaten fresh (12%), extract (10%), cooked vegetable (8%) and juice (4%). Ficus carica was found most cited species with in top ten vegetables followed by Ficus palmata, Bauhinia variegata, Solanum nigrum, Amaranthus viridis, Medicago polymorpha, Chenopodium album, Cichorium intybus, Amaranthus hybridus and Vicia faba.
Patterns of wild edible plant usage depend mainly on socio-economic factors compare to climatic conditions or wealth of flora but during past few decades have harshly eroded due to change in the life style of the inhabitants. Use reports verified common cultural heritage and cultural worth of quoted taxa is analogous. Phytochemical analysis, antioxidant activities, pharmacological applications; skill training in farming and biotechnological techniques to improve the yield are important feature prospective regarding of wild edible vegetables.