Wild vegetables are vegetables that grow naturally without cultivation or care. These plants are found mainly in forests, wilderness areas, along the edges of farmlands, and in barren fields. These vegetables have been consumed since ancient times. Apart from being vegetables, the majority of them are medicinal plants as well.
Wild edible plants are still eaten by a large section of the global population and ensure both affordable food and nutritional security. We are shedding the light on this from a Tunisian perspective, where an enormous variety of such plants constitutes a significant part of the modern diet and their acceptance has been high. Our ancestors have been eating wild vegetables for hundreds of years, mostly to prepare typical Tunisian dishes.
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Wild Edible Plants of Tunisia
Here is a list of 8 wild edible plants of Tunisia, that are very rich in vitamins, minerals and other nutrients essential for health.
The sea beet is the ancestor of commonly eaten such as beetroot, Swiss chard, and spinach beet. We can also thank the rugged coastal plant for the sugar in our tea or coffee, as it was the forerunner of sugar beet.
The coastal plant is a member of the pigweed family, formerly known as goosefoot, and is one of the numerous subspecies of beet (Beta vulgaris) that have evolved over the last 2,000 years.
It is a plant rich in vitamin C and A, Magnesium, Potassium and Calcium. It can be eaten raw in a salad or cooked with other vegetables in couscous or sautéed with chopped onions to make a savory pie or Brik stuffing.
Redroot Pigweed (Amaranthus Retroflexus)
A summer annual that can reach a height of 2 to 3 meters. Redroot pigweed is a prolific seed producer found throughout Tunisia in horticultural, nursery, and agronomic crops, as well as in landscapes, along roadsides, and in pastures and forages.
The Redroot Amaranth is the variety found in Tunisia. This plant is an excellent source of Protein, Minerals, and Micronutrients. Amaranth, like wild chard, can be used in place of certain leafy vegetables. Delicious in soups and salads.
Wild Spinach (Lambs Quarter)
One of the most common garden weeds, and indeed, it is edible and delicious. It is called Wild Spinach because it is a cousin of cultivated spinach. It has almost the same taste and the same virtues.
It can be eaten in the same way as Chard, Spinach and Beet tops. Preferably, the stems are eaten cooked.
Common Mallow (Malva Sylvestris)
Mallow is used to treat mouth and throat irritation, dry coughs, and bronchitis. Additionally, it is used to treat stomach and bladder complaints. Some people place mallow in a warm moist dressing (poultice) and apply it directly to the skin, while others add it to bath water.
In Tunisia, Mallow is used as the main ingredient of a traditional dish called “Khobiza”.
It is one of the few wild vegetables high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are necessary for maintaining healthy arteries and may help prevent strokes, heart attacks, and other forms of heart disease. Indeed, purslane contains the highest concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids of any land plant.
It can be eaten raw or cooked in the traditional way. In Kairouan for example, it is prepared a bit like “Khobiza” and the dish is called “Shakchouka”. In Mahdia, on the other hand, they make a kind of porridge with purslane by adding other vegetables and legumes.
Wild rocket has been used as a culinary herb since Roman times. It had a reputation as an aphrodisiac. It contains a range of health-promoting properties. Due to their nutritional contents, they my bring benefits to human body.
It can be eaten raw in a salad or sprinkled on pizza. For those who do not like the bitter taste of this plant, it can be prepared in the traditional way either as Shakchouka or as Farfoucha (herbal Couscous).
Although dandelion is frequently dismissed as a stubborn lawn weed, it has been used in numerous forms of traditional medicine for centuries.
Not only can the leaves, roots, and flower add a splash of color to your plate, they’re also frequently found in herbal teas and supplements, where they’re used as a natural remedy to help manage blood sugar and promote skin, liver, and heart health.
Stinging Nettle has been a staple in herbal medicine since ancient times. Ancient Egyptians used stinging nettle to treat arthritis and lower back pain, while Roman troops rubbed it on themselves to help stay warm.
When it comes to cooking, Nettle is very tasty. It is rich in vitamins A, B (B2, B5, B9) and C, Nettle is also highly mineralized in Calcium, Chlorine, Magnesium, Manganese, Potassium, Sulfur, Zinc, Silicon and Iron in significant amounts.
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All of the wild edible plants of Tunisia that are on this list may demonstrate slight variations in appearance depending on their location, sunlight exposure, soil quality, and soil moisture.
There are some wild plants that are deemed inedible due to their toxicity to humans. It is highly recommended to thoroughly identify the plants before consuming them.
Bear in mind that the soil and air in which wild plants thrive are potentially polluted, particularly in urban areas. It is not recommended to pick these plants alongside the road, in an industrial area, or in areas with dogs that are not afraid to defecate on the green carpet provided by nature! Preferably, soak your plants for at least 5 minutes in a vinegar and salt water bath before consumption.
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