Title

Wild gathered food plants in the European Mediterranean: a comparative analysis

Document Type

Article

Publication details

Leonti, M, Nebel, S, Rivera, D & Heinrich, M 2006, 'Wild gathered food plants in the European Mediterranean: a comparative analysis', Economic Botany, vol. 60, no. 2, pp. 130-142.

The original publication is available at www.springerlink.com,

http://dx.doi.org/10.1663/0013-0001(2006)60[130:WGFPIT]2.0.CO;2

Peer Reviewed

Peer-Reviewed

Abstract

The Mediterranean basin has a long and multifaceted cultural history and harbors a high biodiversity. Epidemiological studies have drawn attention to certain traditional Mediterranean diets. However, wild gathered food species, which are an important, but fast disappearing element of these diets, so far have been largely neglected in scientific studies. In this study we compare ethnobotanical data obtained from field studies conducted in Southern Italy, Southern Spain, mainland Greece, and Crete resulting in the identification of a core group of 18 culinary used wild gathered plant species. This group comprises species like Papaver rhoeas L., Sonchus asper L., S. oleraceus L., and Silene vulgaris L. We argue that the culinary use of wild gathered weedy greens evolved together with the neolithization process, since this offered the necessary ecological niches for them to thrive, thereby enriching and securing the diets of European agriculturalists. Especially wild gathered Asteraceae species seem to form a sort of proto-nutraceutical, which accounts for a significant input of biologically active compounds in the diet.