Human ancestors got their food by hunting the animals and gathering from wild plants around their shelters.  Hunting animals were need tools and more energy, but collecting food from plants is easier.  We will discuss about plant food foraging and how we can do it in Indonesia and what we will get from the activity.

muryanto paiman

The process of plant food foraging which done by our ancestors were started with exploration and followed by identification.  The exploration area was become wider in line with the population growth.  They collect the plants and sort it  based on the usage.  It can be use as food, medicine, or for their daily tools and shelters.  By experience, our ancestor learn on how to collect, preserve, sort, and seasonal impact related to the foraging result.

From Gather to Barter Then Buy/Sell

For many centuries, plant domestication and agriculture was develop successfully. On the other hand, human interaction to meet their needs has also changed from barter to buying and selling.  These two reasons may be part of the causes of the loss of human expertise in gathering food from nature.

food foraging

The development of human civilization leads to specialization of competencies.  If in the past, human must be able to meet their daily need by them self, today we see human as a farmers or human as carpenters.  Plants as food also cannot be find everywhere. 

They were grown in a certain places which commonly uses as agriculture areas.  Human also lives in the limited space, which difficult to grow food crops for their needs. By time, human competency for gathering and foraging the food is decreased and almost disappear.  For modern humans, food foraging means find and gathers of food from the market. 

Covid-19 is Good Lesson

The Covid19 pandemic, which is currently still ongoing, teaches us that the ability to provide and forage the foods is something we need to have.  When we should stay at home and afraid with the interaction, we realize that we need food self-sufficient.  Or when we also realize that we are facing the worse situation in the future, could be pandemic or disasters, we should survive with our ancestors competencies on foraging the food.

Urban farming center
Urban Farming Center, place to learn how to grow vegetable in the urban area

Providing food can be solve to become a grower.  Nowadays. everybody can be a farmer.  Many opportunities and ways to become a farmers.  If we live in the village, it will be easier.  We just need willingness to be food independent.  When we live in the urban area, we can try hydroponic or aeroponic to grow the plants in the limited space.

Food Foraging In Indonesia is Not Common Yet

In USA or in Europe countries, food foraging is more common activities. But it is not common yet in Indonesia.  This may be due to the fact that it is still easy to find the foods and the price is still reasonably cheap. Or probably there are common mindset that the food foraging is only for outdoor activities.  The food foraging society or practice almost not available.  Hope that the pandemic is really teaches peoples on how importance the food foraging competency.

Muryanto Paiman

In fact, wild or non-utilized plants are as same as nutritious.  Many of wild and non-utilized plants is has high nutrition content. In last 2-3 decades, some of species are still common became one of part in the daily menu.  But by time, foods become more uniform and many of useful plant today become non-utilized. And the new/young generation are not recognize its anymore. 

Fun and Healthy Activity

From my personal experience, food foraging both in the cultivated area or in the wild is a fun activity.  The way how to recognize and identify the plants, or the moment when we taste it and finally “yes…..,its edible!”, is always fun.  Or when we explore the place to find the edible plants and always saw the new species for the first time is also fun.

Risks And Difficulties When We Do Food Foraging In Indonesia

The risk of food foraging is when we have not enough knowledge about the edibility.  From some occasions of food foraging activities, I found people are confuse on memorizing the plants name, either or both local and scientific names.  Some dangerous plant are exist in Indonesia, such as Pulus (Laportea stimulans) and Gadung (Dioscorea hispida).  Actually, these two plants is edible with proper handling

legion botanica
Gadung (Dioscorea hispida) has high content of cyanide acid

Some people also has difficulties on distinguishing the plants.  “all plants are almost same, they were green”.  From overall, the key is practice.  Just make a picture plus notes/remarks and try to find the same species till we can remember without looking the picture anymore.  And then move to other species.  The most important, practice make better.  More practice, will make use much better.

Pulus Dangerous plant
Pulus (Laportea stimulans, one of Dangerous plant in Indonesia

Some benefits of food foraging besides fun activity, is also we can have free food with new flavors and high nutrition content. And the most important is that the food are healthy because no pesticide applied.  Other benefit of food foraging also we have chance to do healthy outdoor exercise by exploring nature.  

Rich With Useful Metabolites

In fact, each plant contain specific metabolites.  By increasing the food variation, it mean we also increase the diversity of metabolites we gave to our body.  The impact is enrichment of some metabolites which may rarely we found in our daily food.  This is the reason why I always forage the plants and cook or eat directly during my outdoor activities.     

Where We Can Practice Food Foraging In Indonesia?

Indonesia has high diversity of plants species and many of them is edible.  We can easily find edible plants everywhere.  The most important is don’t take cultivated plants or ruin the cultivation.  Here is the place we can do plant food foraging in Indonesia:

Food Foraging In The Backyard

Many of edible species we can found in the backyard.  Commonly these species become weeds of cultivated plant.  Ciperaceae and Poaceae is common weeds in Indonesia and most of them are edible. 

backyard food foraging

Wild Amarant and Portulaca also easy to find. Other edible species which easily we can found in Indonesian backyard are Antanan (Centella asiatica), Sintrong (Crassocephalum crepidioides), Calingcing (Oxalis sp), Alang-alang (Imperata cylindrica), and Ciplukan (Physalis angulata)

Food Foraging In The Plantation

There are some plantations in Indonesia such as rubber, oil palm, sugarcane, teakwood, pine, coffee, tea, cacao, and some others.  Many edible species we can found there.  Various plants we can forage the roots, leaves, stem, flowers, or root as food.  Some indigenous species also frequently found. 

plantation food foraging

Some edible plants we can found in the plantation are Musa sp., Sente (Alocasia macrorhiza), Dioscorea sp,, Amorphophallus sp., Colocasia sp., Ganyong (Cana discolor), Garut (Maranta arundinacea), Kecombrang (Etlingera elatior), Selaginella. Kembang telang (Clitoria ternatea), Papaya (Carica papaya), Melastomataceae, Ciplukan (Physalis angulata), Rambusa (Passiflora foetida)

Food Foraging In The Rice Field

In the rice field habitat, we can find both terrestrial  or aquatic edible plants. Some edible aquatic plants are Eceng sawah (Monochoria vaginalis), Genjer (Limnocharis flava), Kangkong (Ipomoea aquatica), Purun tikus (Eleocharis dulcis), Semanggi (Marsilea crenata), Selada air (Nasturtium officinale), Gunda (Sphenoclea zeylanica), Ekor tupai (ceratophyllum).

legion botanica

Besides, we also can found terrestrial edible plants, such as Antanan (Centella asiatica), Sintrong (Crassocephalum crepidioides), Calingcing (Oxalis sp), Semanggi gunung (Hydrocotyle sibthorpioides), Bayam kremah (Altenanthera sessilis), Portulaca, Ciperaceae, Amarantaceae,

Food Foraging In The Swamp

swamp food foraging

Most of edible species in the swamp area is aquatic plants. Some of them are Purun tikus (Eleocharis dulcis), Ekor tupai (ceratophyllum), Mimosae, Eceng sawah (Monochoria vaginalis), Semanggi (Marsilea crenata), Genjer (Limnocharis flava), Selada air (Nasturtium officinale), Kangkong (Ipomoea aquatica), Gunda (Sphenoclea zeylanica), Purun tikus (Eleocharis dulcis).

Food Foraging In The Forest

Indonesian forest has abundance of edible species. From common known species which to the rare or strange species because of scarcity or endemic only in some area in Indonesia. 

Wild species from Genus Durio and Mangifera are widely distribute in the Kalimantan forest.  Wild edible species from Myrtaceae family we can find easily in Sumatra and Java island, as same as Urticaceae, wild banana and bamboo. 

forest food foraging

We can found species from Arecaceae which mostly edible in almost all Indonesian forest.  From low land to highland forest.  If in lowland or near to the coastal area easily we can found Gebang (Corypha utan) and Lontar (Borassus flabellifer), in highland we can found rattan (Calamus rotang), Sarai (Caryota mitis), and some more species easily. 


Indonesia as one of world diversity center which has many edible plant species that we can forage as food.  Food gathering competency should start to be studied again to find out how diverse the flora in Indonesia is and also use them as a germplasm that probably can be developed and used as food.

And last but not least, food foraging ability is important as preparedness from unexpected situation. What we need is just be prepare for every condition. Use the quote from survival skill Indonesia, “In Omnia Paratia“!.

Categories: Edible

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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