cover of book

Eating on the Wild Side: The Pharmacologic, Ecologic and Social Implications of Using Noncultigens
edited by Nina L. Etkin
University of Arizona Press, 1994
eISBN: 978-0-8165-4319-9 | Cloth: 978-0-8165-1369-7 | Paper: 978-0-8165-2067-1
Library of Congress Classification GN476.73.E27 1994
Dewey Decimal Classification 581.61

People have long used wild plants as food and medicine, and for a myriad of other important cultural applications. While these plants and the foraging activities associated with them have been dismissed by some observers as secondary or supplementary—or even backward—their contributions to human survival and well-being are more significant than is often realized. Eating on the Wild Side spans the history of human-plant interactions to examine how wild plants are used to meet medicinal, nutritional, and other human needs.

Drawing on nonhuman primate studies, evidence from prehistoric human populations, and field research among contemporary peoples practicing a range of subsistence strategies, the book focuses on the processes and human ecological implications of gathering, semidomestication, and cultivation of plants that are unfamiliar to most of us. Contributions by distinguished cultural and biological anthropologists, paleobotanists, primatologists, and ethnobiologists explore a number of issues such as the consumption of unpalatable and famine foods, the comparative assessment of aboriginal diets with those of colonists and later arrivals, and the apparent self-treatment by sick chimpanzees with leaves shown to be pharmacologically active.

Collectively, these articles offer a theoretical framework emphasizing the cultural evolutionary processes that transform plants from wild to domesticated—with many steps in between—while placing wild plant use within current discussions surrounding biodiversity and its conservation. Eating on the Wild Side makes an important contribution to our understanding of the links between biology and culture, describing the interface between diet, medicine, and natural products. By showing how various societies have successfully utilized wild plants, it underscores the growing concern for preserving genetic diversity as it reveals a fascinating chapter in the human ecology.

1. The Cull of the Wild, Nina L. Etkin
2. Agriculture and the Acquisition of Medicinal Plant Knowledge, Michael H. Logan & Anna R. Dixon
3. Ambivalence to the Palatability Factors in Wild Food Plants, Timothy Johns
4. Wild Plants as Cultural Adaptations to Food Stress, Rebecca Huss-Ashmore & Susan L. Johnston
Physiologic Implications of Wild Plant Consumption
5. Pharmacologic Implications of "Wild" Plants in Hausa Diet, Nina L. Etkin & Paul J. Ross
6. Wild Plants as Food and Medicine in Polynesia, Paul Alan Cox
7. Characteristics of "Wild" Plant Foods Used by Indigenous Populations in Amazonia, Darna L. Dufour & Warren M. Wilson
8. The Health Significance of Wild Plants for the Siona and Secoya, William T. Vickers
9. North American Food and Drug Plants, Daniel M. Moerman
Wild Plants in Prehistory
10. Interpreting Wild Plant Foods in the Archaeological Record, Frances B. King
11. Coprolite Evidence for Prehistoric Foodstuffs, Condiments, and Medicines, Heather B. Trigg, Richard I. Ford, John G. Moore & Louise D. Jessop
Plants and Nonhuman Primates
12. Nonhuman Primate Self-Medication with Wild Plant Foods, Kenneth E. Glander
13. Wild Plant Use by Pregnant and Lactating Ringtail Lemurs, with Implications for Early Hominid Foraging, Michelle L. Sauther
14. In Search of Keystone Societies, Brien A. Meilleur

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