Objectives: Wild edible plants (WEP) play the dual role of securing food diversity and promoting health in traditional societies. Current simplified dietary habits contribute to increasing population health risks. Since WEP are integral to the diet of traditional communities, identifying their significance as foods to people provides further evidence to conserve them and promote their consumption. Six species of WEP were identified as integral to the diet of rural Lebanese communities. We investigated their patterns of consumption and knowledge regarding their health and medicinal properties.
Design: An ethnobotanical survey, employing a qualitative questionnaire, was conducted among thirty informants. The identified species were Cichorium intybus, Eryngium creticum, Foeniculum vulgare, Malva sylvestris, Thymus syriacus and Gundelia tournifortii.
Results: Most informants consumed the six plants as a regular part of their diet. Seasonal variability in consumption was evident. C. intybus was renowned for its digestive and blood strengthening properties. F. vulgare was used as a digestive stimulant. M. sylvestris was distinguished for its anti-inflammatory qualities. T. syriacus was popular for its digestive and anti-poisonous properties. E. creticum was attributed less pronounced health benefits. G. tournifortii was considered a nutritious food.
Conclusions: All six species were popular for their edible uses as well as their health and/or medicinal benefits. These properties are supported by scientific evidence. Our results highlight the importance of these plants for local people and support efforts for their conservation. However, we noticed a decline in indigenous knowledge. We encourage efforts to record it for other plants and in other communities.