Indonesia is the 15th largest country in the world. With a total area of 1,904,569 kilometers square and more than 18.000 islands. An article that contains some information about plants utilization in Indonesia

Located in an equator between 2 continents Asia and Australia, and two oceans; the Pacific and Indian ocean.  Indonesia is one of the world’s hot spots for biodiversity.  With about 40,000 of a huge group of Spermatophytes, and more than 2,000 fern species, and 80,000 fungi species.

Rice field in West Java

From various histories of civilization, Indonesian territory is an area that becomes the ancient route of interaction among various cultures (China, India, Arabic, Europe, Africa, and Polynesia). 

Traffic and domestication of plant species have a long history.  Plants utilization is interesting to study.  From its function as food, shelter, clothing, and medicine, as well as other functions related to religious rituals.

Rice is one of the most important plants for Indonesian peoples. It can become the starting point and use as a reference to study plant utilization in Indonesia. Although not originating from Indonesia, but these wild cultivated rice seeds were probably brought by Indonesian ancestors when migrating from mainland Asia to the islands of the archipelago in 2000-1500 BC.

Plant Utilization In Indonesia From Ancient Period

Previously, experts had proven that in 10,000 BC, the domestication of rice ancestors (Oryza rufipogon) had been carried out by residents around the Yang Tze River.  Since that era, the assimilation process and acculturation between the early inhabitants with immigrants continued to come in stages. This process includes the development of knowledge to utilize plants on fulfilling their daily needs.

Before the 5th century, the Indonesian archipelago already busy. Become center of the spice trading. Especially cloves and nutmeg. Trading between The Srivijaya Kingdoms with China and India.

There are records of trading history between Barus harbor with Egypt in the 1st century AD. The main commodity being the Barus oil which derived from camphor trees (Cinnamomum camphora)

History of Plant Domestication

To illustrate, we can see the domestication history of plant species in Indonesia, in historical pieces of the ancient Mataram kingdom in the 8th century. Karmawibhangga relief in Borobudur Temple depicts rice plants (Oriza zativa) and wetland farming activities in rice fields using buffalo.

Also found the images of corn (Zea mays), breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis), banana (Musa acuminata), sugar cane (Saccharum officinarum), jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus), mango (Mangifera indica), aren (Arenga pinnata), Guava (Saccharum officinarum), guava (Syzygium aqueum), coconut (Cocos nucifera), durian (Durio zibethinus) in their backyard.

One interesting thing is the presence of sugarcane (Saccharum sp.) in the relief. As known, sugar cane did natively not come from java island. The center of origin of sugarcane was in the Wallace and Lyddeker region (Saccharum officinarum), in the eastern part of Indonesia, the Indo-China region (Saccharum sinensi), and eastern India (Saccharum barberi).

This means that the interaction of local peoples at that time with other cultures in China and India had already taken place and farming activities had advanced because they had used the irrigation system for rice fields and had used buffalo to plow the fields.

Interaction with other nations

In the Dutch colonial era, the presence of cultivated plants has increased significantly. Crop cultivation in Java has advanced by using seasonality to maximize yield. The focus of crop cultivation in Java is food crops, such as rice, cassava, sweet potatoes, corn. As well as plantation crops such as sugar cane, tea, and rubber.

In Sumatra, the agricultural system is still in the form of dry land, and wetlands without using a technical irrigation system. Whereas in eastern Indonesia, cultivation focuses on spice commodities such as cloves and nutmeg.

The arrival of Europeans who also brought cultivated plants added to the diversity of plant species in Indonesia. The cultivated plants are not only from Europe but also from Africa and America which are then cultivated in Indonesia. Such as kulraap (Brassica napus), cabbage (Brassica oleracea), raapzaad (Brassica rapa), beans (Phaseolus vulgaris), beet (Beta vulgaris), peterselie (Petroselinum vulgare), and carrots (Daucus carota)

First Book of Indonesian Vegetable plants

In addition, the Dutch botanist named J.J. Ochse wrote a book called Indische Groenten in 1931 which contained 765 types of vegetables consisting of monocots, dicots, pteridophytes, and mushrooms that are commonly used as vegetables in Java island. It books prove that Indonesian peoples have a long history in the utilize the plants as their food.

Actually, vegetables referred to by Ochse are foods that were consumed as secondary menu. These vegetables can be stems, leaves, flowers, fruit, seeds, roots, or bulbs.

From the description of Ochse, there are several plants that are commonly known to be used as vegetable ingredients such as:

  • Antanan (Centella asiatica)
  • Baluntas (Pluchea indica)
  • Bongborosan / key (Boesenbergia)
  • Jinten (Plectranthus amboinicus)
  • Calingcing (Oxalis corniculata)
  • Huni (Antidesma bunius)
  • Jampang carulang (Eleusine indica)
  • Jambu monyet (Anacardium occidentale)
  • Jotang (Acmella paniculata)
  • Kadongdong (Spondias dulcis)
  • Karet munding (Ficus elastica)
  • Kastuba / Godong racun(Euphorbia pulcherrima)
  • Kawung (Arenga pinnata)
  • Loa (Ficus racemose)
  • croton (Codiaeum variegatum)
  • Salam (Syzygium polyanthum)
  • Tempuyung (Sonchus arvensis)
  • Singkong (Manihot esculenta)
  • Pepaya (Carica papaya)
  • Leunca (Solanum scabrum)
  • Kenikir (Cosmos caudatus)
  • Honje / combrang (Etlingera elatior)
  • Nangka (Arthocarpus heterophillus)

The plants above are a list of vegetable plants for the local peoples were mostly lived in west java. Not all of these plants are cultivated, some of them were grown wild in the garden/yard or in the forest.

Categories: History

Muryanto Paiman

always love to learn from nature.  Passionate on studying plants in some aspects: the DNA, Identification, propagation, and their uses


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