EP20: Discovering new wild edible plants

That person is Lukasz Luczaj, associate professor and head of the Department of Botany at the University of Rzeszow, Poland.

I’d always wanted to meet and interview him.

It was self-evident to me that his depth of knowledge of wild edible plants was, quite simply, extraordinary.

His pet subject is the traditional use of wild foods in Eurasia.

Finally, I managed to catch up with Lukasz just before he gave the Annual Distinguished Ethnobotanist Lecture 2018 at Kew Gardens.

I strongly urge you to listen to this interview.

One thing I learnt was that buttercups are eaten in some cultures. In the UK, they are considered poisonous.

But be warned.

This isn’t a license to nip outside, grab any old buttercup and start shoving them down your throat. They need to be processed properly!

You’ve got to love ethnobotany. So listen in as Lukasz encourages you to begin the journey down this incredible plant path. There are wonders still to be discovered and explored.

The downside of this interview is that I failed to take into account that Kew Gardens is directly underneath a flight path. Still, you only get the occasional aeroplane noise in the background.

Show Notes

About Lukasz Luczaj

Lukasz Luczaj is associate professor and head of the Department of Botany in the Faculty of Biotechnology of the University of Rzeszow, Poland.

His main interest is the traditional use of wild foods in Eurasia. He has carried out field research in Poland, Romania, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia (Caucasus) and China.

In China, he works both with Chinese and Tibetan communities of the Qinling Mountains and eastern part of the Tibetan Plateau. He is also interested in archival sources concerning plant uses – he worked extensively with archives concerning Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine and Belarus.

He also co-edited a book entitled Pioneers in European Ethnobiology (with Ingvar Svanberg, Uppsala University Press).

In 2011, Lukasz founded an open-access Polish-language journal Etnobiologia Polska. He is the editor of Ethnobotany section in Acta Societatis Botanicorum Poloniae (the oldest Polish botanical journal) and associate editor in Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine.

Apart from the work in Academia, he runs an educational centre and wild garden in the Carpathians where he organises cooking workshops with wild plants, fungi and insects.

Lukasz authored a few popular books on edible plants, insects and foraging way of life, as well as appearing on a few cooking television programmes (all in Polish). He also runs a YouTube channel devoted to wild foods.


  1. This was truly an interesting interview.
    Thanks for that. I agree with Lukasz that ordinary holidays are boring and would love to meet people that know what/how to do with plants.
    Do you know of a source that organises these kind of holidays?
    Enjoyed your London workshop, too

    • Irmtraut – Plants and Healers International (I am a co-director) are running a botanical trip to Peru next April. Here are the details.

      When I land in SE Asia I simply tell local village people I am interested in forest foods/wild food plants, and within a short time, I get introduced to locals who I then go out with and record the plant uses. Depends how adventurous you are.

  2. I have a garden full of buttercups (mainly the creeping variety), and have always hated them for being useless. I would love to know more about the preparation: for instance, the variation between different types; and would twenty minutes or so in an electric pressure cooker do the trick? What is actually happening during the cooking process that renders them edible? And importantly – are they palatable – ie, actually worth the effort if it’s not a starvation situation?!


  3. Gilly – As I say above… “This isn’t a license to nip outside, grab any old buttercup and start shoving them down your throat. They need to be processed properly!”

    And I am currently researching how to process them correctly. This is purely for information purposes only!!!

  4. Absolutely fascinating, thank you, I will listen a few times over, life is richer than we can ever imagine and we can never know enough. But we must preserve the wild habitats, that has to be a priority. Thank you once again for this share.

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