Wild Edibles - A Much Needed Alternative to Conventional Food Sources

Diversification of food sources are of paramount importance from the point of view of both nutrition security as well as environment. We need a variety of nutrients through our diet which are sourced from diverse ingredients, roots, shoots, grains, fruits and meat. However, over the years and especially after the green revolution, it has been observed that on an average, diet patterns have shifted from diverse food sources to consumption of only a few selected ingredients like wheat, rice, maize, potato, chick pea, soybean and so on. As a result, the usage of local food sources, wild edibles, highly nutritious and hardy varieties of millets, sorghum, cassava and other tubers is drastically declining across the globe.

Monoculture of the selected crops has given rise to different insects and pests thriving on these crops and made it necessary to develop several new hybrid varieties, several insecticides, and pesticides to overcome heavy losses occurring due to diseases.

In remote rural and tribal areas, the seasonal wild edibles provide a rich and ensured source of nutrients to local communities. They thrive very well in nature, do not compete with agricultural system for resources, and provide for healthier diets.

Diversity lends resilience to a food system. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has attributed a lack of resilience in the global food system to the radical decline in food diversity. Moreover, it is expected that in extreme climatic events of drought or flood, the consumption of widely available, naturally occurring local varieties and wild edibles such as wild fruits, tubers, corms, and so on could ensure food security. Thus, understanding the diversity of food sources available around us, recording the traditional knowledge about its consumption, and its propagation would enable us to include many more diverse ingredients to our platter.

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