Gathered Mediterranean food plants- Ethnobotanical investigations and historical development

Document Type


Publication details

Rivera, D, Obón, C, Heinrich, M, Inocencio, C, Verde, A, & Fajardo, J 2006, 'Gathered Mediterranean food plants- ethnobotanical investigations and historical development', Forum of Nutrition, vol. 59, pp. 18-74.

The publisher's version of this article is available at


Peer Reviewed



The diversity of local Mediterranean food elements is not known in detail, but offers itself to search for new vegetables, salads, fruits and spices which could be used in to enrich diets outside their region of origin. Most amid those interesting local elements are edible wild plants and weeds. Ethnobotanical research has identified ca. 2,300 different plant and fungi taxa, which are gathered and consumed in the Mediterranean. Among these, >1,000 are only consumed in one single zone, therefore are strictly local. The percentage of local gathered food plant (GFP) taxa (present insamples), is higher in the main centers of diversity at the periphery of the Mediterranean (Sahara, Alps, Caucasus, Canary Islands, the Levant). Islands (Sicily, Sardinia, Crete, Cyprus) also show a high proportion. Endemism of GFP taxa only accounts for a limited number of these 'ethnobotanical endemics' (only ca. 350 are endemic/ endangered species). On the other hand, only a few taxa - 30 occurring in >20 samples - are consumed in most of the Mediterranean. Most have been analyzed in the Local Food-Nutraceuticals project. The ca. 800 GFP taxa that occur in more than the 5% of localities show a geographical pattern that permits one to recognize seven geographical groups. These groups show relationships with types of Mediterranean diet and could also be related with human genetic polymorphism through long-term co-evolution in a geographical mosaic pattern.

Find in your library