The food tra­di­tion of Wild Ed­i­ble Plants

Lebanon Traveler - - CONTENTS -

The Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­ga­ni­za­tion (FAO) de­fines wild plants as “those that grow spon­ta­neously in self-main­tain­ing pop­u­la­tions in nat­u­ral or semi-nat­u­ral ecosys­tems and can ex­ist in­de­pen­dently of di­rect hu­man ac­tion.” Though not part of ur­ban di­ets, many wild plants are ed­i­ble and lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties con­sumed them for their health and medic­i­nal qual­i­ties long be­fore their nu­tri­tious, protective and ther­a­peu­tic ef­fects were proven by science. Sev­eral of th­ese of­ten-called famine foods proved to be im­por­tant sources of high qual­ity pro­tein, es­sen­tial amino acids and min­er­als. In low-so­cioe­co­nomic com­mu­ni­ties, wild ed­i­ble plants con­trib­ute to food se­cu­rity and nu­tri­tion.

In Le­banon, Wild Ed­i­ble Plants (WEP) are re­garded as valu­able food within ru­ral ar­eas. Known as sliq or sliqa in Ara­bic, tra­di­tional knowl­edge about th­ese plants is of­ten passed down through gen­er­a­tions by word of mouth, with women be­ing the main be­hold­ers of this wealth. Come spring, you can spot ru­ral women in or­chards and high­lands col­lect­ing what Mother Na­ture has in store for them. But WEP are more than just food. They re­flect the pride of ru­ral res­i­dents in their land and hold the wis­dom of their an­ces­tors. Eaten raw, boiled or cooked, a whole culi­nary tra­di­tion has de­vel­oped around them, all the while be­ing used for their medic­i­nal benefits, treat­ing health prob­lems rang­ing from skin ir­ri­ta­tions to ane­mia (Zeinab Jeam­bey Masters’ the­sis “The Per­ceived Health and Medic­i­nal Knowl­edge of 6 Species of Wild Ed­i­ble Plants in North­ern Le­banon").

The Food Her­itage Foun­da­tion’s Zeinab Jeam­bey meets ru­ral women around the coun­try con­tin­u­ing the tra­di­tion of col­lect­ing and cooking Wild Ed­i­ble Plants

You can still find peo­ple knowl­edge­able in WEP in ru­ral Le­banon. Nonethe­less, this knowl­edge is dwin­dling be­cause of the lack of in­ter­est among younger gen­er­a­tions and their de­tach­ment from na­ture. Jeam­bey meets some of the vil­lagers still re­tain­ing this tra­di­tion.

It’s a call for ev­ery­one to doc­u­ment knowl­edge about WEP in or­der to pre­serve this cen­te­nary her­itage.

Khadi­jeh Chahine and hind­beh (chicory)

Khadi­jeh Chahine, re­spon­si­ble for Al Ahd Co-op in Buwayda, Her­mel, has a wealth of knowl­edge on lo­cal seeds and is a fer­vent ac­tivist for the sus­tain­able col­lec­tion of WEP. Her co-op spe­cial­izes in sell­ing lo­cal crops such as jurdi chick­peas and salam­ouni bul­gur and flour. For or­ders: 71 579547

Wis­dom through chicory

Health and medic­i­nal tips: Chicory treats ane­mia and fights con­sti­pa­tion.

Cooking tips: Eat it raw with a few olives or in a salad with green onions, pomegranate mo­lasses and olive oil. An­other al­ter­na­tive is to stir-fry with lots of onions and eat it with a squeeze of lemon.

Su­raya and Su­maya Kaak­our and shu­mar (fen­nel)

Th­ese adorable 75-year-old twin sis­ters from Baas­sir in Iqlim Al Khar­roub made sure ev­ery­one knew that they were on a mission to en­rich our re­search study. As I ac­com­pa­nied them and thanked them for their gen­eros­ity, Su­maya told me “take pic­tures of us! This way, when we are gone you will re­mem­ber the two old ladies from Baas­sir who told you how im­por­tant Wild Ed­i­ble Plants are.” Info FHF: 71 731437

Wis­dom through fen­nel Health and medic­i­nal tips: Fen­nel seed in­fu­sion al­le­vi­ates bloat­ing and stom­ach aches. Cooking tips: Eat it boiled, strained and marinated with lemon juice, gar­lic and olive oil. Chop it with mint, pars­ley and onions and mix it with eggs and flour be­fore fry­ing into an omelet.

Na­bila Az­zam and kheb­bayzeh (mal­low)

Na­bila Az­zam, a pas­sion­ate cook from Ein Zebde in West Bekaa, in­her­ited her ex­ten­sive knowl­edge about plants from her mother. Although WEP are abun­dant from Fe­bru­ary un­til the end of April, Az­zam col­lects a va­ri­ety all year round. She is a host on “darb el karam” – food her­itage trail – a USAID­funded food tourism project es­tab­lished by the En­vi­ron­ment and Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment Unit at AUB, the Food Her­itage Foun­da­tion (FHF) and the Shouf Cedar Bio­sphere Re­serve, within the frame­work of the Le­banon In­dus­try Value Chain Devel­op­ment (LIVCD) pro­gram. Join Az­zam on a touris­tic ac­tiv­ity col­lect­ing WEP and en­joy her WEP turnovers, baked on Saj. For ac­tiv­i­ties on “darb el karam,” con­tact FHF: 71 731437

Wis­dom through mal­low

Health and medic­i­nal tips: Mal­low is known for its anti-in­flam­ma­tory prop­er­ties. Cooking tips: Stir-fry it in olive oil with onions, cilantro and chick­peas. Eat it with bread and a squeeze of lemon juice.

May Kanaan and qors aaneh (eryngo)

Known as the “Queen of Saj” in her vil­lage Mrosti in the Shouf Moun­tains, May Kanaan has the en­ergy of a bum­ble­bee. Owner of a mini-mar­ket, Kanaan has been bak­ing Saj bread for over 20 years. In spring, Kanaan roams the high­lands and col­lects wild oregano to make and sell her za­atar mix. She also gath­ers other ed­i­ble plants to use as fill­ings for her turnovers and mana’ish. Full of en­ergy and life, she is a main host on “darb el karam” – food her­itage trail, and will make a joy­ful guide to fol­low on a day in the wild. For or­ders: 05 331036 Health and medic­i­nal tips: Eryngo is a po­tent anti-poi­sonous plant. It was of­ten used to coun­ter­act the ef­fect of snake and scor­pion venom.

Cooking tips: Make an eryngo tab­boule by sub­sti­tut­ing pars­ley for eryngo or sim­ply pickle it.

food-her­itage.org

food­her­itage

Wis­dom through eryngo

They re­flect the pride of

ru­ral res­i­dents in their land and hold the wis­dom

of their an­ces­tors

Oregano

Pho­tos cour­tesy of Food Her­itage Foun­da­tion

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