Traditional Lebanese recipes based on wild plants: An answer to diet simplification?

​​​Batal M, Hunter E. Traditional Lebanese recipes based on wild plants: An answer to diet simplification? Food and Nutritional Bulletin 2007;28(2): S303-S311


BACKGROUND: The challenge posed by the nutrition transition occurring throughout the world is enormous: rates of chronic disease, particularly overweight and obesity and cardiovascular disease, have reached alarming levels-often occurring in parallel with high levels of micronutrient deficiencies. Lebanon is no exception. And yet this Mediterranean country enjoys a rich biodiversity, with thousands of endemic species and an equally rich culinary history, largely based on its local biodiversity, including wild edible plants.

OBJECTIVES: To record traditional Lebanese recipes based on wild edible plants and to investigate their potential to contribute to a more diversified diet.

METHODS: A series of nine focus group meetings was conducted with key informants knowledgeable in wild edible plant identification, harvesting, and use.

RESULTS: Common recipes based on wild edible plants were collected and standardized from rural communities where collection of wild edible plants is common. Nutrient analysis and food-composition analysis were performed, including comparisons with processed dishes that are increasingly common in the Lebanese diet, revealing that the wild edible plant-based dishes offered a healthier alternative.

CONCLUSIONS: Since traditional recipes often use items from several food groups in one dish, they can be a good model for diet diversification. The promotion of the collection and use of wild edible plants and their derived products can lead to improved nutrition.