Foraging on the WEP trail

Collecting wild edible plants on a rainy day

Despite the low rainfall level this winter season in Lebanon, not exceeding the general yearly average, spring season in the West Bekaa was green enough to allow nature and food lovers visit the Wild Edible Plant (WEP) trail on Darb el Karam, even for a limited time.

A day on the WEP trail event organized on March 18, 2018

The mountains and fields of the villages on Darb el Karam were generous with the variety of wild edible plants they offered for the visitors from “qorra” to “balghassoun” and “dardar” and “khebbeyzeh, qors aanneh, mesheh, hindbeh”* and others. Darb el Karam local guides explained how to identify these plants and prepare them according to traditional recipes popular in their villages.

“dardar” leaves are harvested when still tender

It is not a coincidence that the Christian Lent season falls in early spring when all these delicious plants are available! [quote]We prepare a diversity of dishes from salads, omelets, aassoura and vegetarian kebbeh[/quote] said Lina, host and guesthouse owner on Darb el Karam.

Enjoying a traditional lunch on the WEP trail

[quote]I used to go with my mom to the fields when I was a little girl, she taught me all I know about sleeqa.[/quote] said Nabila, WEP local guide on Darb el Karam.

Chef Gail Arnold from New Jersey collecting edible plants with local host Joseph

Chef Gail Arnold who spent two days on the trail was eager to go back home and try some of the recipes she tasted. [quote] I found some dandelion greens here [in the US] and made a dish much like one that Lina taught me…Delicious![/quote]

Yet, one other challenge that WEP are facing, besides weather variability, is the use of herbicides that is killing not only weeds and undesired herbs but also edible and medicinal plants which grow in the orchards.

[quote]Sleeqa is not as abundant as it was before. Farmers are spraying a lot of herbicides in their orchards!![/quote] told us Noha, owner of Ain Zebde guesthouse. In this regards, awareness on sustainable weed management is warranted among farmers to protect soil biology and function while controlling weeds.

Malva sylvestris is commonly known for its versatile medicinal use

Wild edible plants have always been an integral part of the rural Lebanese diet as they are nutritious and most of them are rich in fiber, antioxidants and minerals. Moreover, they are affordable and easily accessible!


*Qorra: watercress (Nasturtium officinale)

Balghassoun: garden Anchusa

Dardar: eastern star thistle (Centaurea hyalolepis)

Khebbeyzeh: mallow (Malva sylvestris)

Qors aanneh: eryngo (Eryngium creticum)

Mesheh: salsify (Tragopogon buphtalmoides)

Hindbeh: common chicory (Cichorium intybus)





“Balghassoun” fritters

“Balaassoun” in the wild. Photo ©

Balghassoun or Balaassoun (بلعصون) known as garden Anchusa is a wild edible plant that grows in the mountains of Lebanon and Syria where it is collected during spring. Anchusa is native to Europe and western Asia and eastern Maghreb. It is a bristly perennial plant that can grow up to 50 cm in height. Its leaves are straight and lance-shaped with a hairy and rough texture. The flowers are small and tubular of bright violet-blue color.

Balaassoun can be prepared by boiling it then stir-frying with olive oil and some garlic gloves. But the most common way to cook it is in fritters and omelette.

Balaassoun fritters


Balaassoun leafy stems

2 free range eggs

1/2 cup of Flour


Vegetable oil

Preparation steps:

  1. Wash the Balaassoun leaves and stems
  2. Dip them for 30 seconds in hot water to remove the small hairs on the leaves
  3. In a bowl, combine the eggs, flour and salt to make the batter
  4. In a frying pan, heat the oil
  5. Dip the Balaassoun in the batter and fry in the hot oil
Balaassoun beautiful flowers. Photo ©wikimedia

Discover the Wild Edible Plants trail

To celebrate spring and the generosity of the Land, the Food Heritage Foundation is organizing a 1-day event on the Wild Edible Plants trail on Darb el Karam – Food Trail in the West Bekaa.

Join us on March 18 to discover the landscape of the West Bekaa villages and learn from local farmers how to identify these plants and use them in the local cuisine.

A traditional seasonal lunch will be served on Darb el Karam tables d’hôte.

Participation fees: 55,000 LBP including transportation and lunch.

Hurry up and register by calling us on 71-731437 or by sending us an email to

Places are limited.

Departure from Beirut will be at 8:30 AM. Departure location will be communicated later.

The bus leaves the West Bekaa at 3:00 PM

*For cancellation, please contact us 2 days before the event. Thank you

**To stay updated about this event, please check our facebook page

Food Trails

The Wild Edible Plants Trail

In The Media

Wild Edible Plants – Lebanon Traveler

The Food Heritage Foundation’s Zeinab Jeambey meets rural women around the country continuing the tradition of collecting and cooking Wild Edible Plants.

Wild Edible Plants: Lebanon Traveler

Check out the full article in Lebanon Traveler magazine.

Wild Edible Plants: Lebanon Traveler
Eat Local

Fennel – Shoumar

Indigenous to the Mediterranean region, fennel or “shoumar” in Arabic is widely distributed in the world and renowned for its culinary and medicinal (therapeutic) uses. Fennel grows in the wild in dry, stony calcareous soils but also in moist soils; it grows in winter but can also be found all year long.

Potato and fennel fritters ©Taste&Flavors

The whole plant with its bulb, feathery leaves and seeds are used in the kitchen of different cultures. The fennel stalks similar to celery’s in texture and crunch are added raw in salads, but also stir-fried (as onions) to braises and pastas. The leaves are usually used for garnish, but can also be cooked with fish (especially salmon) or added to salads and yogurt sauce to make tzatziki. Fennel seeds have a sweet aroma and a strong aniseed flavor; they are used in spices mixes. Different types of fennel omelets are known across the Mediterranean countries, they use both the leaves and stalks of the plant.

Getting ready to make fennel tabbouleh 

In Lebanon, fennel is mostly collected in the wild and prepared in omelets but can also be consumed as “assoura” boiled, strained and marinated with lemon juice, garlic and olive oil just like chicory.

[quote]Nutrition Corner [/quote]

Fennel is a crunchy vegetable that adds a refreshing touch to the Mediterranean cuisine. Its different parts can be all used in cooking: the base and stalks mostly for soups and stews, and the leaves as herb seasonings. Fennel also offers plenty of nutritional benefits and is considered as a “heart healthy” vegetable due to its high fiber content. Rich in Vitamin C, potassium and folate, it will boost your immunity and keep you in shape! (1 cup or 90g of sliced fennel = 27 calories)

Eat Local

How to eat wild plants in your backyard

Getting back to our roots, to the places our food came from, is one of the cornerstones of understanding and appreciating our food heritage. That includes learning about foods that may have once provided nutrition and balance for people hundreds of years ago, but are no longer eaten in modern times.

One of those foods isn’t as hard to find as you might think—it’s probably right in your own yard. That’s because many of the plants that are considered weeds are actually chock-full of vitamins and nutrients. Most edible weeds have features that help to distinguish them from other non-edible and possibly toxic weeds, making them easier for you to pick out.

Weeds lost their appeal when our diets became domesticated—when we started eating the same things no matter where we lived. Today, as long as you stay away from poisonous plants, you’ll be set. Use this graphic to get started with some better backyard eating.

Eat Local

Wild Edible Plants

Food heritage expert Zeinab Jeambey goes on a journey to meet rural women, from the four corners of Lebanon, and learn about different wild edible plants, their benefits and cooking methods.

wild garlic
Wild garlic – thoum

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defines wild plants as “those that grow spontaneously in self-maintaining populations in natural or semi-natural ecosystems and can exist independently of direct human action.” Though not part of urban diets, many wild plants are edible and local communities consumed them for their health and medicinal qualities long before their nutritious, protective and therapeutic effects were proven by science. Several of these often-called famine foods proved to be important sources of high quality protein, essential amino acids and minerals. In low-socioeconomic communities, wild edible plants contribute to food security and nutrition.

In Lebanon, Wild Edible Plants (WEP) are regarded as valuable food within rural areas.

Dardar sold at a local farmers’ market

Known as sliq or sliqa in Arabic, traditional knowledge about these plants is often passed down through generations by word of mouth, with women being the main beholders of this wealth. Come spring, you can spot rural women in orchards and highlands collecting what Mother Nature has in store for them. But WEP are more than just food. They reflect the pride of rural residents in their land and hold the wisdom of their ancestors. Eaten raw, boiled or cooked, a whole culinary tradition has developed around them, all the while being used for their medicinal benefits, treating health problems ranging from skin irritations to anemia.

You can still find people knowledgeable in WEP in rural Lebanon. Nonetheless, this knowledge is dwindling because
of the lack of interest among younger generations and their detachment from nature. Jeambey meets some of the villagers still retaining this tradition. It’s a call for everyone to document knowledge about WEP in order to preserve this centenary heritage.

Seasoned chicory with garlic, lemon juice and olive oil

Hindbeh (chicory): Khadijeh Chahine, responsible for Al Ahd Coop in Buwayda, Hermel, is a wealth of knowledge
on local seeds and a fervent activist for the sustainable collection of WEP. Her Co-op specializes in selling local crops such as jurdi chickpeas and salamouni bulgur and flour.

Health and cooking tips of chicory: treats anemia and fights constipation. Eat it raw with a few olives or in a salad with green onions, pomegranate molasses and olive oil. Another alternative is to stir-fry with lots of onions and eat it with a squeeze of lemon.

Shoumar (fennel): Suraya and Sumaya Kaakour are adorable 75-year-old twin sisters from Baassir in Iqlim Al-Kharroub. They made sure everyone knew that they were on a mission to enrich our quest. As I accompanied them
and thanked them for their generosity, Sumaya told me “take pictures of us! This way, when we are gone, you will remember the two old ladies from Baassir who told you how important Wild Edible Plants are.”

Health and cooking tips of fennel:  Fennel seed infusion alleviates bloating and stomach aches. Eat it boiled, strained and marinated with lemon juice, garlic and olive oil. Chop it with mint, parsley and onions and mix it with eggs and flour before frying into an omelet.

Stir-fried mallow with onions and chickpeas

Khebbayzeh (mallow): Nabila Azzam, a passionate cook from Ein Zebde in West Bekaa, inherited her extensive
knowledge about plants from her mother. Although WEP are abundant from February until the end of April, Azzam collects a variety all year round. She is a host on the darb el karam food heritage trail. Join Azzam on a touristic activity collecting WEP and enjoy her WEP turnovers, baked on Saj.

Health and cooking tips of mallow: Mallow is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Stir-fry it in olive oil with onions, cilantro and chickpeas. Eat it with bread and a squeeze of lemon juice.

May preparing her special eryngo pastries
May preparing her special eryngo pastries

Qors aaneh (eryngo): May Kanaan is know as the “Queen of Saj” in her village Mrosti in the Shouf Mountains, May
Kanaan has the energy of a bumblebee. Owner of a mini-market, Kanaan has been baking Saj bread for over 20 years. In spring, Kanaan roams the highlands and collects wild oregano to make and sell her zaatar mix. She also gathers other edible plants to use as fillings for her turnovers and mana’ish. Full of energy and life, she is a host on darb el karam food heritage trail, and will make a joyful guide to follow on a day in the wild.

Health and cooking tips of eryngo: Eryngo is a potent anti-poisonous plant. It was often used to counteract the effect of snake and scorpion venom. Make an eryngo tabboule by substituting parsley for eryngo or simply pickle it.

This article was featured in Lebanon Traveler magazine .