Ethnobotanical Leaflets 13: 195-202. 2009.



Wild Edibles of Kishtwar High Altitude National Park in Northwest Himalaya, Jammu and Kashmir (India)


Satish Kumar and Irshad Ahmed Hamal


Department of Botany University of Jammu, Jammu


Issued 30 January 2009



The use of wild edible plants can contribute vitamins, protein and fat to the human diet besides being an important source of cash-earning to the locals. Spread over an area of 425 km2, Kishtwar High Altitude National Park lies between 33° 20΄ to 34º 40΄ North latitude and 75º 40΄ to 76º 10΄ East longitude. A sizable area of the National Park is inhabited by the indigenous population. The area of the National Park includes 35 villages with about 20000 human population besides nomadic Gujjar and Bakerwals who bring their sheep and cattle for grazing during summer. The economically weak populace of the area is mostly dependent on the agriculture and the wild resources for their day today needs. This paper presents information on the edibility of 50 plants species used traditionally by local inhabitants in Kishtwar High Altitude National Park (KHANP). Majority of plant species belong to angiosperms (42 species) followed by gymnosperms (2 species) and Pteridophytes (2 species), whereas 4 species belong to fungi.  As for as the edibility is concerned majority of the plant species (21 species) are exploited for fruit, 19 serve as vegetables, 4 species as flavoring agents (spices), roots and/or leaves of 3 species are eaten as raw, 3 species as tea substitute, whereas 2 species are used in making special drinks. Edible oils are obtained from the kernels of Juglans regia and Prunus armeniaca which are served with meals as such or used as cooking oil. Some of these species also play an important role in income generation for most of the families living in KHANP.


This view that the rural household is dependent on forest resources is a well-shared one among researchers and development practitioners. Studies from around the world illustrate how wild resources often form an integral part of livelihood (Scoones et al., 1992). Wild resources provide materials for utensils and construction, and contribute to improved diets and health, food security, income generation, and genetic experimentation. In developing countries, rural populace who mainly comprise of herders, shepherds or other economically marginalized sections of the population use forests for grazing, firewood collection and numerous other subsistence needs (Kothari et. al., 1989; van Shaik et. al., 1997; Sabarwal and Ranagarajan, 2003). Understanding the local people's indigenous knowledge in relation to biodiversity/resource management is one of the key issues for the development in present times (Kunwar and Duwadee, 2003). In recent years, there has been increasing interests to understand the contribution that forest resources make to local employment, income and the wellbeing of rural communities (Arnold and Townson 1998; Mamo et al. 2007). However, due to changing perception of the forest dwellers, commercialization and socio-economic transformation all over the world, there has been a general observation that the indigenous knowledge on resource use has degraded severely (Gadgil et. al., 1993; Silori and Rana, 2000). One of the most critical issues on the national and global agenda is the need to preserve biodiversity for future generations while trying to understand and document the indigenous knowledge of resource management practices (Farooque et. al., 2004). The earth summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, firmly acknowledged the role of indigenous knowledge in biodiversity conservation, especially under article 8j, thus promoting its use as a new norm in environmental management (Cormier-Salem and Roussel, 2002). The importance of ethno-biological knowledge for suggesting new paths in scientific research, for conservation monitoring or for understanding ecological processes, has received much attention in resource management (Berkes et. al., 2000; Huntington, 2000; Olsson and Folke, 2001). International agencies such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and UNESCO, in the context of their joint program, the people and plant initiative, have also promoted research on ethno-botanical knowledge, as well as integration of people’s perceptions and practices in resource management at local level (Cunningham, 2001).

 It has been estimated that 46% of world’s poor live in South Asia (Bhattarai, 1998) of which 75 million dwell Himalayas (Dutta and Pant, 2003) and the biomass extraction is most widespread pressure on forests where rural people significantly depend for their household and livelihood needs (Chopra, 1997; Hedge and Enlers, 2000; Pattanayak et. al., 2003) and income generation through the sale of wild harvested materials (Hamilton, 2004). Wild edible plants are major source of food for tribal inhabitants of forests. About 1,000 species of these plants provide sustenance to tribal inhabitants in India (Ravikiran, 2008). Knowledge of these plants is based on belief, observation and a rich wild edible plant history. In remote rural settlements where vegetable cultivation is not practiced and market supplies are not organized, local inhabitants depend on indigenous vegetables, both cultivated in kitchen gardens and wild, for enriching the diversity of food. Knowledge of such foods is part of traditional knowledge which is largely transmitted through participation of individuals of households (Misra, 2008). Wild foods are valuable sources of energy and micronutrients in the diets of isolated communities. Further, such plants may serve as income source and may be marketed or traded locally, regionally, even internationally, and the primary importance of edible wild species during periods of drought and or social unrest or war is well documented (Grivetti, 1978, Agrahar-Murugkar and Subbulakshmi, 2005). The most important nutrients present in plants are: carbohydrates, such as the starch and free sugars, oils, proteins, minerals, ascorbic acid, and the antioxidant phenols, such as Chlorogenic acid and its polymers (Ekanayake and Nair, 1998; Ali and Deokule, 2009).

Study Area

Spread over an area of 425 km2, Kishtwar High Altitude National Park (KHANP) is situated in the North of Kishtwar town in newly created district Kishtwar of Jammu and Kashmir State (India). The area of Kishtwar High Altitude National Park lies between 33° 20΄ to 34º 40΄ North latitude and 75º 40΄ to 76º 10΄ East longitude. Being situated at an altitude of 1500-6500 m, the climate is temperate with severe winters and moderate summers. It generally confirms to the sub-Mediterranean type and depends upon the duration and magnitude of precipitation and temperature. The KHANP harbours 35 villages with about 20000 human population apart from the nomadic population who visit highlands of the area with their livestock during the summer. The indigenous populace is very much dependant on the wild resources of National Park for day to day needs. One of the reasons for their continued dependence on wild resources is the tough terrain, lack of motarable roads and electricity.

Materials and Methods

Out of the 35 villages present in the National Park 20 villages were selected for the study. To assess the traditional knowledge on wild plant edibles, frequent interactions and discussions were made with the local villagers, which included farmers, herdsmen, shepherds, housewives and children,  and further supplemented by watching their daily routine, food habits, wild food supplements. The indigenous knowledge received from them was noted in special field books. Live specimens and available photographs were shown to them for local identification. Plants collected from Kishtwar High Altitude National Park were dried, preserved and identified with the help of available literature (Hooker, 1872-1897; Anonymous, 1993; Sharma and Kachroo, 1983; Swami and Gupta 1998; Singh and Kachroo, 1994; Polunin and Stainton, 1997)). Further identification was done by matching the collected plant specimen with herbarium sheet lying in the Herbarium Department of Botany University of Jammu, Jammu.

Results and discussion

The local populace of the KHANP is economically weak and the area is not connected by roads which remains cut off for 3-5 months from rest of the country during winters. The scarcity of the green vegetables is a common feature; the remedy is provided by wild edibles which are cooked fresh during summers and are dried for use in winters. The use of wild edible plants can substantiate vitamin, protein and fat contents in the human diet besides being an important source of cash-earning to these locals. During present work 50 plant species distributed among 33 families have been observed to be used as wild edibles by the indigenous people in KHANP. Rosaceae and Asteraceae with difference, the most frequently encountered families with 8 and 4 species respectively, whilst, Berberidaceae, Polygonaceae, Apiaceae, Brassicaceae, Liliaceae, Moraceae and Dryopteridaceae follow with 2 species each. Other 24 families have single representation in edible flora of KHNP. The wild edible plants reported during the course of study with their botanical name arranged alphabetically, local name, family, part used and preparation are shown in table 1. Herbs make up the highest proportion of wild edible species, followed by shrub, trees and fungi. Majority of plant species belong to angiosperms (42 species) followed by gymnosperms (2 species) and Pteridophytes (2 species), whereas 4 species belong to fungi.  As for as the edibility is concerned majority of the plant species (21 species) are exploited for fruit, 19 serve as vegetables, 4 species as flavoring agents (spices), roots and/or leaves of 3 species are eaten as raw, 3 species as tea substitute, whereas 2 species are used in making special drinks. Edible oils are obtained from the kernels of Juglans regia and Prunus armeniaca which are served with meals as such or used as cooking oil. Seeds of Pinus gerardiana and Bunium persicum, nuts of Corylus cornuta, Juglans regia and fruitification of Morchella esculenta, Geopora sp., Pleurotus sp. and Rhizopogon sp. are sold in the market and play an important role in income generation for most of the families living in KHANP. Among the 19 species used as wild vegetables 7 species are cooked fresh 11 species are cooked both fresh as well as after drying for winters where as only one species is cooked only after proper processing and drying.

Table-1:- wild edible plants used by local populace in Kishtwar High Altitude National Park

Botanical Name                                    Family                    local Name            Part used and preparation

Allium roylei Stearn                                Alliaceae                 Bazun                      dried leaves used as spices

Berberis aristata DC.                              Berberidaceae        Khumlai                    fruit is edible

Berberis lycium Royle                            Berberidaceae        Khumlai                    fruit is edible

Bistorta amplexicaulis (D. Don) GreenePolygonaceae                                         roots used as a tea substitute               

Bunium persicum (Boiss.) B. Fedtsch.  Apiaceae                 Zoor                        seeds used as spices and condiment

Cannabis sativa L.                                 Cannabaceae          Bhange                    leaves used in sedative drinks

Capsella bursa-pastoris (L.) Medik.      Brassicaceae          Khathkram               leaves cooked as vegetable  

Celtis australis L.                                   Ulmaceae                Breng                      fruit is edible

Cirsium arvense (L.) Scop.                    Asteraceae             Kandmool                roots eaten as raw

Colocasia esculenta (L.) Schott            Araceae                  Alvathur                  leaves cooked as vegetable

Coriaria nepalensis Wall.                       Coriariaceae            Hang                        fruit is edible

Corylus jacquemontii Decne.                 Corylaceae              Virvoin                     kernels are edible

Crataegus songarica K. Koch                Rosaceae                Khring                      fruit is edible

Diplazium esculantum (Retz.) Sw.        Dryopteridaceae     Vani                         fronds cooked as vegetable

Diplazium frondosum                             Dryopteridaceae     kakhish                    young leaves and fronds cooked as vegetable

Dipsacus inermis Wall.                          Dipsacaceae           wapal hakh             leaves cooked as vegetable

Duchesnea indica (Andrews) Focke     Rosaceae                sarpingdach            fruit is edible

Elaeagnus umbellata Thunb.                 Elaeagnaceae         Goain                       fruit is edible

Eremurus himalaicus Baker                   Liliaceae                  Hulla                        leaves cooked as vegetable

Ficus palmata Forssk.                            Moraceae                Fag                          fruit is edible

Foeniculum vulgare Mill.                         Apiaceae                 Fakhbaidan              seeds used as spices and condiment

Fragaria nubicola Lindl. ex Lacaita        Rosaceae                Ingdach                   fruit is edible, roots used as tea substitute

Geopora sp.                                            Pyronemataceae     Kancuch                  fruitification cooked as vegetable

Juglans regia L.                                      Juglandaceae          Dun                          kernels edible, catkins cooked as vegetable

Malva neglecta Wallr.                             Malvaceae               Sonchal                   leaves cooked as vegetable

Mentha arvensis L.                                 Lamiaceae               Pudun                      leaves used as spices and condiment

Morchella esculenta                               Helvellaceae            Kuch                        fruitification edible

Morus serrata Roxb.                               Moraceae                Tul                           fruit is edible

Nasturtium officinale W. T. Aiton           Brassicaceae                                          leaves are cooked as vegetable

Oxalis corniculata L.                              Oxalidaceae            Dangchuch              leaves eaten as raw

Phytolacca acinosa Roxb.                      Phytolaccaceae      Arail                         leaves cooked as vegetable

Pinus gerardiana Wall. ex D. Don           Pinaceae                 Fita                          seeds are edible

Pleurotus sp.                                          Polyporaceae          sirza                        Fruitification cooked as vegetable

Prunus armeniaca L.                              Rosaceae                cheir                        fruit edible

Prunus cornuta (Wall. ex Royle) Steud. Rosaceae                Zamb                       fruit is edible

Punica granatum L.                                Punicaceae             Dan                          fruit is edible

Pyrus pashia Buch.-Ham. ex D. Don      Rosaceae                Heind                       fruit is edible

Rhizopogon sp.                                      Rhizopogonaceae   bhav lukhad             Fruitification cooked as vegetable

Rosa webbiana Wall. ex Royle               Rosaceae                jungle gulab             petals used in making drinks

Rubus hoffmeisterianus Kunth & Bouch.Rosaceae              chanchlai                 fruit is edible

Rumex nepalensis Spreng.                    Polygonaceae         Habul                       leaves cooked as vegetable

Saussurea heteromalla Hand.-Mazz.     Asteraceae             Shublut                    roots eaten as raw

Solanum nigrum L.                                 Solanaceae             Kambai                    fruit is edible

Sonchus asper (L.) Hill                           Asteraceae             Dudhand                  leaves cooked as vegetable

Taraxacum officinale F. H. Wigg. aggr   Asteraceae             Hand                        leaves cooked as vegetable

Taxus wallichiana Zucc.                        Taxaceae                Pustil                        bark used as substitute for tea

Trillidium govanianum                            Liliaceae                                                  leaves cooked as vegetable

Urtica dioica L.                                       Urticaceae               Soi                           leaves cooked as vegetable

Viburnum grandiflorum Wall. ex DC.      Caprifoliaceae         Kullam                      fruit is edible

Ziziphus oxyphylla Edgew.                    Rhamnaceae           Bir                            fruit is edible




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