Culinary talk |

Urban Forager: Edible Wild Plants You Can Find Around the City

Culinary Talk | 15 September 2020
Javanese people use Krokot as a complement to pecel, a Javanese-style salad where various vegetables including krokot are boiled and sprinkled with sweet and spicy peanut sauce. NOW!JAKARTA

Most people get bothered by the wild plants that sprout around the house. But if you look a little closer, and explore their beneficial contents, you'll find that some of these plants can actually be a natural remedy for health, or even be used as an exotic new ingredient for your next meal.

The use of unusual ingredients, such as edible plants or flowers isn't common practice among chefs and cooks. But as long as the kitchen is under your own rules, you have the freedom to experiment with this urban vegegation that you may find  around your area.

Whether you're out for a jog, or wandering around your garden or even neighbourhood, don't miss an opportunity to track down some of these plants. It's a blessing to live in a country with lots of wild flora, rich with health benefits - and the trend is becoming increasingly popular among urbanites. Those adopting healthy lifestyles and plant-based diets have gone so far as to make their own small garden in their yard to supply their kitchen needs. 

Here are five edible plants you may just find during an urban forage!


(Portulaca oleracea)

Many of you may be familiar with this plant (pictured above), which is considered a weed because it often grows wild in the yard. Most of the time people will pluck it and throw it away! Krokot or purslane is part of the Portulacaceae family and has 40 to 100 different species, which can be eaten and have medicinal properties. One type of krokot that can be eaten is Portulaca oleracea. This plant is easily recognised by its oval leaves with blunt tips and bottoms and a relatively smooth surface. The stem is purplish-red and the flowers are yellowish. The special nutritional content possessed by purslane is Omega 3 and contains pigments that have the potential to be antioxidants and antimutagenic. Javanese people use this plant as a complement to pecel, a Javanese-style salad where various vegetables including krokot are boiled and sprinkle with sweet and spicy peanut sauce. 


(Ocimum americanum)

Kemangi or lemon basil is a very popular plant. It is very easy to find in the markets and people here use it within a smorgasbord of recipes. Many Indonesian restaurants and street food vendors serve basil as one of their staples, even if it’s just for garnish. Kemangi works to get rid of body odor, in addition to raising mom’s breast milk. It also contains vitamin A which is essential for developing and maintaining the immune system in the body. These leaves are delicious even when eaten raw because of their distinctive aroma or are used to enhance the aroma of foods, especially for fish or chicken curry. 


(Sauropus androgynus)

The benefits of this plant are popular to support breast milk production for nursing mothers. It has a shrub shape and can reach a height of two to three meters, with fairly soft branches. The leaves are very green, indicating high chlorophyll content, so it contains large amounts of antioxidants, which are very useful for preventing free radicals and self-aging and high vitamin A for eye health. Generally, Indonesian people cook this plant only by boiling it in water with various spices such as garlic, shallot, galangal, fingerroot plus sliced carrots and corn to make clear vegetable soup. 

Pegagan or Antanan 

(Centella asiatica

Well-known as gotu kola, this plant is widely grown in Indonesia, China, Japan and India. A myriad of benefits attracts experts to research more about the effectiveness of this herbal plant. It is characterised by its small shape and is often found on riverbanks, on roadsides and rice fields. Since time immemorial, these leaves are often used by our ancestors as a perennial herb used to treat various diseases, such as improving blood circulation in sufferers of chronic venous insufficiency on veins in the legs as well as supplementary treatment for arthritis. Most Sundanese people eat these leaves as fresh vegetables and with pickled fruit or vegetables.

Mimba or Intaran

(Azadirachta indica)

In Ayurvedic practices, mimba or intaran leaves (neem tree) are a medicinal herb that has been part of traditional medicine for thousands of years. These leaves have effective antiviral and antibacterial properties which can be a strong immune stimulant. The anti bacterial can work well on infections, burns and all kinds of skin problems, being able to destroy bacteria that can cause infection, stimulates the immune system and promotes rapid healing. We can easily find this plant around temples in Bali. Almost every part of this plant has medicinal properties. Often parts of this plant are made into extracts, oil, or boiled to drink the water.