The vast expanses of the Indian subcontinent feature an enormous range of climates and terrains. Within them, reported India's national newspaper The Hindu, grow nearly 1000 wild, edible plants. These plants provide fruit, leaves, tubers, flowers, gums, seeds and grains. Knowing how to recognize them could provide you with either a tasty trail snack or crucial survival food.
Dry Climate Plants
The abal shrub grows to about 5 feet in western India's Rajputana desert. According to the Wilderness Survival website, the edible flowers that the shrub's thin scraggly branches produce in early spring provide a good source of carbohydrates.
Growing in the hottest scrub land of India's southeastern coast, the wild desert gourd vine produces both edible flowers and orange-sized, yellow fruit. While the fruit pulp is unpalatable, the boiled or roasted seeds are a good source of oil, and the green stem tips will provide water.
The jujube tree or shrub is common in India's dry regions. Its small sweet fruit, varying from yellow green to red, has little pulp or juice. Dry the fruit or soak the pulp in water to make a sweet drink rich in vitamins A and C.
A vine found in the Indian foothills and Himalayas, the Zombi pea, is valued not for its bean pods but for its protein-rich roots, according to the website Flowers of India. Identify the vine by its mauve flowers that become yellow as they age. Eat its roots either raw or boiled.
Duchesnea or Indian strawberry is a weed common in India's warmer regions. Wilderness Survival reports that duchesnea produces runners bearing pale yellow flowers followed by red, strawberry-like, edible fruit.
Basella alba or Ceylon spinach is a vine reaching up to 12 ft. Its tips and thick leaves taste similar to spinach when young, reports Wilderness Survival. Neither its pink flowers nor purple berries are edible.
Delicious and fragrant, orange-sized mangosteen fruits come from trees found in India's western coastal regions. The young, pale green fruit contrasts with the trees' dark green, oval-shaped leaves, before deepening to purple when ripe. When boiled, the mangosteens tree's seeds produce edible oil called mangosteen butter, according to Flowers of India.
Both wild and cultivated in India, the fruit of tamarind tree is an excellent source of vitamin C and a good thirst quencher, according to the Perdue Agriculture's Horticulture and Landscape Architecture program. Add the young leaves to soup and roast the young fruit as a side dish with meat. The seeds are edible when roasted. Use the seedlings and flowers in curries.
The spiny bael fruit tree, found in India's rainforests, has yellowish-gray fruit high in vitamin C. Wilderness Survival describes bael fruit juice mixed with water and honey or sugar as a refreshing beverage.
Despite its name, only the roots of India's horseradish tree taste like horseradish. Identify it among trees of the rainforest by its fern-like leaves and long, slender bean pods, according to Wilderness Survival. Eat its young leaves raw and older tougher leaves cooked. Cut the pods into small pieces and fry them. If they're still soft, simply chew them raw. Add the flowers to salads.