More than 80% of Bhutan’s land is under forest cover and Bhutanese has so many wild vegetables to collect. Wild vegetables provide food as well as cash income for rural population. Below are the top 9 wild vegetables Bhutanese collect from nature.
Bhutanese, just like others, harvest canes to weave baskets, carpets, ropes, hats, utensils and many more. Bhutanese also eat young, tender cane shoots. Called locally as Patsa, it is sliced into thin pieces and cooked to make a very special soup. It is only prepared during special occasions such as New Year celebrations and annual religious ceremony and serve to important guests. It tastes bitter but is favorite of many.
Called as ‘Nakey’ in Dzongkha, fern is the most consumed wild vegetable in Bhutan. It grows in moist and shady forests but not necessarily dense forests. Stem and leaves of fern are either cooked in water or fried. Some people dry it to be consumed in winter.
3. Bamboo shoot
Lately, bamboo shoot pickle has become so popular among Bhutanese. Eating bamboo shoot is not a new trend in Bhutan. People in the central and southern Bhutan has been consuming it for centuries.
4. Banana heart
It’s not only the fruit of banana that can be consumed. The heart of banana, or banana flower as some call it, can be consumed too. The tough husks on the outside of the flower is stripped away and tender yellow and green bud-like-leaves inside are cooked. The banana heart curry becomes really yummy.
Known as Elatostema Lineolatum in the scientific community and Damru in Bhutanese, it is a plant in the nettle family native to Japan. It grows in moist and deep forests. Stem and leaved are chopped and prepared during special occasions especially religious ceremonies. It can be dried and preserved for dry seasons.
Bhutan is home to more than a thousand species of mushroom growing all over the country. Mushrooms are prepared fresh or dried. Shitake and Masutake are some of the expensive mushrooms that fetch good price in market. Bhutan also observes Annual Matsutake Festival in Thimphu and Bumthang during its harvest season. Some mushrooms are poisonous and should not be consumed.
7. Flower of Malabar Nut
Malabar nut is used in different schools of Asian Medicine including Bhutanese Traditional Medicine. The bitter flowers are favorite of many Bhutanese.
8. Wild asparagus
Wild asparagus grows in gravelly, rocky soils high up in piedmont plains between 1,300–1,400 meters above sea level. It can be prepared in many ways. Cultivation of asparagus is not an old trend until recent times. People would collect it from wild for consumption. Because if destructive harvesting, it is now considered endangered.
Nettle grows all over Bhutan. Cooking the plant, even briefly, destroys the stinging hairs and makes nettle safe to eat. It is believed to lower the blood pressure. Mila Repa, a 12th century yogi, is believed to have survived solely on nettle soup while meditating in the mountains.