Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Agronomic, nutraceutical, and organoleptic performances of wild herbs of ethnobotanical tradition.

Abstract

There is a lack of information on how to grow wild herbs as nutraceutical foods. Ten wild herbs were collected in natural and/or anthropized environments and assessed for their agronomic performance as fresh-cut (or ready-to-eat) leafy vegetables and their nutraceutical and organoleptic attributes. Seed dormancy prevented acceptable germination in many species. However, a physiological seed treatment (soaking with sodium hypochlorite followed by incubation for 3 months at 4°C in sand moistened with potassium nitrate solution) allowed satisfactory germination, usually above 80%. Cultivation in alveolar containers produced highly diversified fresh-cut productivity (250-550 g.m-2), lower than that of lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.; >900 g.m-2) grown as a reference fresh-cut green vegetable. Antioxidant power was often much greater in wild herbs (20.0 to 62.0 mmol Fe2+.kg-1 fresh weight [FW]) than in lettuce (21.0 mmol Fe2+.kg-1 FW). Evaluation of the sensory profile indicated that softness and sweet taste of lettuce were generally preferred to the more robust flavors of wild herbs. Hardness and bitter taste produced a poor appreciation of most wild herbs. However, exceptions were evidenced due to characteristics of spiciness [Alliaria petiolata (M.Bieb) Cavara & Grande] and/or crunchiness (Silene vulgaris [Moench] Garcke). Frequent distrust for most herbs was expressed as an example of food neophobia that generally occurs for unknown bitter flavors. Most of the wild herbs were not suitable as fresh-cut leafy vegetables, but some species could be ingredients for mixed products with better flavor and health properties.