Click on the four categories above to access the species listings of wild-food plants in Ethiopia, giving a general description and information on edible parts, preparation methods and palatability. For information about how to use the Field Guide, click on the instructions button on your left. 

General description and classification of comestible wild plants: 'wild-food' and 'famine-food' 

The term 'wild-food', though commonly used, is misleading because it implies the absence of human influence and management. In reality, there is a continuum resulting from the development of co-evolutionary relationships between humans and their environment (Bell, 1995). People have indirectly shaped many of the plants and some have been largely domesticated in home gardens and in the fields together with farmers' cultivated food and cash crops. Nevertheless, the term 'wild-food' is used to describe all plant resources outside of agricultural areas that are harvested or collected for the purpose of human consumption in forests, savannah and other bush land areas. Wild-foods are incorporated into the normal livelihood strategies of many rural people, be they pastoralists, shifting cultivators, continuous croppers or hunter-gatherers (Bell, 1995). Wild-food is usually considered as an additional diet to farmers' daily food consumption pattern, generally based on their crop harvest, domestic livestock products and food purchases on local markets. Fruits and berries from a wide range of wild growing plants are typically referred to as 'wild-food'. Wild fruits and berries add crucial vitamins to the normally vitamin deficient Ethiopian cereal diet, particularly for children.

Various case studies in different parts of Ethiopia revealed that typical 'famine-food' consists of a variety of plants of which leafy and tender parts of stalks, pseudo-stems, fruits, berries, seeds, husks and roots, i.e. tubers and corms are mainly used for consumption. Plants classified as typical 'famine-food' plants are normally not consumed due to their limited seasonal availability, local taboos, offensive nature of the plants such as abundance of thorns and tiny spines (mostly not on the edible part of the plant), certain unpleasant characteristics and side-effects such as bad taste, complicated and prolonged preparation, and association with stomach complaints, constipation, diarrhoea and even intoxication. On the other hand, certain 'wild-foods' which are liked and therefore collected and consumed every time when ripe, may also become very important 'famine-foods' during periods of food shortage. In certain areas of Southern Ethiopia some potential 'famine-food' is well known as livestock fodder during normal times which will also be consumed by humans at times of severe food shortages.

Proposed 'wild-food' plant categories 
Depending on the parts of the plants (fruits, leaves, roots etc.) consumed in certain circumstances (normal time versus period of severe food shortage) by different consumers (adults, children, women, men), four major categories of 'wild-food' plants can be distinguished: (1) typical 'famine-food' plants, (2) 'wild-food' plants with 'famine-food' components, (3) 'wild-food' plants attracting additional consumer categories during food shortage periods, and (4) on-farm food crops with 'famine-food' components. Each category and some typical representative examples of 'wild-food' plants are described below.

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Non Categorized Species
Wild food plant species lacking enough information for classification into one of the four categories in the Field Guide.