Economic Botany

, Volume 60, Issue 2, pp 130–142 | Cite as

Wild gathered food plants in the European mediterranean: A comparative analysis

  • M. Leonti
  • S. Nebel
  • D. Rivera
  • M. Heinrich


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 likePapaver rhoeas L.,Sonchus asper L.,S. oleraceus L., andSilene 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.

Key words

Mediterranean basin wild (local) food comparative analysis (comparative) ethnobotany Neolithicum weeds Mediterranean diet(s) history of plant use 

Plantas silvestres comestibles recolectadas en el mediterrÁneo Europeo: Un analisis comparativo


II bacino Mediterraneo ha vissuto una lunga e multisfaccettata storia culturale e gode di una ricca biodiversita. Studi epidemiologici hanno attirato attenzione su certe diete] mediterranee. Attualmente I’ uso culinario di piante selvagge e commestibili, elemento importante di queste diete, si sta perdendo e ha ricevuto poca attenzione dai punto di vista scientifico. In questo lavoro mettiamo a paragone una serie di dati etnobotanici ottenuti da ricerche di campo nel sud dell’Italia, nel sud della Spagna, nella Grecia e a Creta risultanti nell’identificazione di un gruppo principale di 18 specie selvatiche ad uso culinario. Questo gruppo comprende specie come ilPapaver rhoeas L., ilSonchus asper L., ilS. oleraceus L. e ilSilene vulgaris L. Mettiamo in evidenza che l’evoluzione dell’uso culinario delle verdure selvatiche è avvenuto durante il processo di neolitizazzione poiché questo ha fornito le nicchie ecologiche necessarie. Attraverso il loro uso gli agricoltori europei hanno arricchito e assicurato la loro dieta. In modo particolare le specie raccolte selvatiche appartenenti alle Astaraceae sembrano formare un protointegratore rappresentando una fonte significativa di composti biologicamente attivi nella dieta.

Piante commestibili raccolte in ambiente selvatico nell’Europa mediterranea: Analisi comparativa


La Cuenca Mediterránea tiene una historia cultural larga y polifacetica y alberga una biodiversidad extraordinaria. Diversos estudios epidemiologicos han atraido atencion sobre algunas dietas mediterraneas tradicionales. Sin embargo, las especies silvestres comestibles recolectadas, un elemento importante de estas dietas que va desapareciendo rápidamente, han sido hasta ahora casie olvidadas en los estudios científicos. En este artículo comparamos datos etnobotánicos obtenidos de estudios de campo realizados en el sur de Italia, de España y de la Grecia continental y en Creta, que conducen a la identificatión de un grupo central de 18 especies de plantas recolectadas, silvestres, usadas en alimentatión. Este grupo comprende especies comoPapaver rhoeas L.,Sonchus asper L., 5.oleraceus L. ySilene vulgaris L. Sostenemos que el uso culinario de verduras silvestres y de hierbas de los campos de cultivo evolucionó asociado al proceso del neolitización, que ofreció los nichos ecológicos necesarios para el desarrollo de estas especies, enriqueciendo y afianzando las dietas de los primeros agricultores europeos. Especialmente las especies silvestres recolectadas de [la familia] Asteraceae, parecen constituir un tipo de proto-nutracéutico que aporta significativamente compuestos biológicamente activos a la dieta.


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Copyright information

© New York Botanical Garden Press 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Leonti
    • 1
    • 2
  • S. Nebel
    • 1
  • D. Rivera
    • 3
  • M. Heinrich
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Pharmacognosy and Phytotherapy, The School of PharmacyUniversity of LondonLondon
  2. 2.Dipartimento Farmaco Chimico TecnologicoUniversitá di CagliariItaly
  3. 3.Departamento de Biologia Vegetal, Facultad de BiologiaUniversidad de MurciaMurciaSpain

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