Many wild vegetables provide good nutrition



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Content: Collect and protect nutritious wild vegetables.

We have talked many times on our radio programs about how to garden and about how to plant lots of vegetables. Today, we are going to talk about those vegetables that grow wild around our homes or nearby.

Most people already know about these wild vegetables and either still make use of them or made use of them long ago.

In our area of Southern Africa, there are many wild vegetables that people collect. Many of these vegetables have relatives that grow in many other parts of the world and are also edible. Some of the common vegetables here are purple or red amaranth (Amaranthus paniculatus), lamb’s quarters, pigweed, or white goose root (Chenopodium album), hairy beggar’s tick or hairy sticktight (Bidens piloso), annual prickly or spiny sow-thistle (Sonchus asper), radish (Raphunus sativus), stinging or slender nettle (Urtica species).

Wild plants are often more nutritious and higher in vitamins than vegetables you plant in your garden. That means they are actually better for you. Because they come up on their own, the only work they require is harvesting.

Here are some of the things we do to help encourage these wild vegetables.

1) Rather than picking all of them, we always let some of them go to seed so they spread more seeds each year.

2) We put shrub branches around or over certain areas that have lots of these vegetables to keep the animals away from them.

3) During the dry months, we mulch the part of the garden we are resting. We use dried grass we collect from the edge of the garden. Some of the wild vegetables come up through the mulch, providing us with free wild vegetables with no work.

4) We collect seed heads from wild vegetables and broadcast them among our other crops.

Many agricultural programs neglect the value and importance of wild vegetables. Agricultural workers who come to an area from somewhere else often don’t know about the edible wild vegetables and promote only what they do know. But with a little effort, these wild vegetables can easily be found.

Old people are sources of important knowledge and many older people still remember the special uses of most wild plants. That knowledge should be preserved and used. People should first go to the old people for advice and be very skeptical of what foreign “experts” say.

What is good in a tradition needs to be preserved. People everywhere need to stand up and make use of their traditional vegetables and food crops. Wild indigenous vegetables are a wonderful resource. They should be used by every person.


1. You may wish to use information in another DCFRN item which discusses the use of other types of wild plants for food. It is:

More food from native plants – Package 2, Item 9

Information sources

Harvey P. Harman, Community Development Worker, Transkei, South Africa