Edible Non-Crop Plants in Homegardens of Kerala: Their Diversity, Management and Nutritive Value

U. M. Chandrashekara


The homegardens of Kerala are known for the high diversity of their species in both cultivated and non-cultivated (hereafter, non-crop) plant communities. The non-crop plants can be categorised into edible and non-edible plants. A study was conducted to identify edible non-crop plants in homegardens of a village located in the mid-land agroclimatic zone of the State. Among the 27 edible non-crop species identified six species namely, Cassia occidentalis, Cassia tora, Centella asiatica, Oxalis corniculata, Phyllanthus urinaria and Portulaca oleracea were found in majority of the homegardens. A significant positive correlation between the number of homegardens accommodating and using the species was also noticed. In homegardens, all edible non-crop plants are managed at a minimal level by tolerance and protection. Nutritionally, all the investigated edible non-crop species could contribute substantially to protein, minerals and crude fibre intake. Being rich in protein (19.3 mg g-1 to 54.3 mg g-1), fat (0.004 mg g-1 to 0.016 mg g-1), fibre  (12.6 mg g-1 to 49.8 mg g-1), minerals (25.7 mg g-1 to 58.3 mg g-1),calcium (3.3 mg g-1 to 13.3 mg g-1), phosphorous (0.3 mg g-1 to 3.2 mg g-1) and iron (0.2 mg g-1 to 0.8 mg g-1), these species are nutritionally comparable to or even better than several cultivated vegetables in the country. The present study also demonstrated an example of a system in which an important traditional feature i.e. utilisation of non-crop plants is still prevailing. In the context of changing socio-economic scenario, however, efforts are required to strengthen traditional system so that they will maintain optimal combination of ecological and productive features and at the same time ensure nutritional security and plant diversity in homegardens and rural landscapes.


Agroforestry; Food Security; Non-cultivated Edible Plants; Nutritional Security; Traditional Land-use Pattern


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