A comparative food ethnobotanical study was carried out in fifteen local communities distributed in five districts in the Palestinian Authority, PA (northern West Bank), six of which were located in Nablus, two in Jenin, two in Salfit, three in Qalqilia, and two in Tulkarm. These are among the areas in the PA whose rural inhabitants primarily subsisted on agriculture and therefore still preserve the traditional knowledge on wild edible plants.
Data on the use of wild edible plants were collected for one-year period, through informed consent semi-structured interviews with 190 local informants. A semi-quantitative approach was used to document use diversity, and relative importance of each species.
Results and discussion
The study recorded 100 wild edible plant species, seventy six of which were mentioned by three informants and above and were distributed across 70 genera and 26 families. The most significant species include Majorana syriaca, Foeniculum vulgare, Malvasylvestris, Salvia fruticosa, Cyclamen persicum, Micromeria fruticosa, Arum palaestinum, Trigonella foenum-graecum, Gundelia tournefortii, and Matricaria aurea. All the ten species with the highest mean cultural importance values (mCI), were cited in all five areas. Moreover, most were important in every region. A common cultural background may explain these similarities. One taxon (Majoranasyriaca) in particular was found to be among the most quoted species in almost all areas surveyed. CI values, as a measure of traditional botanical knowledge, for edible species in relatively remote and isolated areas (Qalqilia, and Salfit) were generally higher than for the same species in other areas. This can be attributed to the fact that local knowledge of wild edible plants and plant gathering are more spread in remote or isolated areas.
Gathering, processing and consuming wild edible plants are still practiced in all the studied Palestinian areas. About 26 % (26/100) of the recorded wild botanicals including the most quoted and with highest mCI values, are currently gathered and utilized in all the areas, demonstrating that there are ethnobotanical contact points among the various Palestinian regions. The habit of using wild edible plants is still alive in the PA, but is disappearing. Therefore, the recording, preserving, and infusing of this knowledge to future generations is pressing and fundamental.