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Spring is coming: The gathering and consumption of wild vegetables in Spain

Spring is Coming
The Gathering and Consumption
of Wild Vegetables in Spain
J T
Ya viene el mes de los pobres The poor men’s month is just coming.
ya salen a buscar grillos, They go out looking for crickets,
espárragos y cagarrias, asparagus and morels,
sombreretes y cardillos addles and golden thistles
(Popular Spanish proverb)
In Spain, as in other Mediterranean countries, wild vegetables have
played an important role in complementing staple agricultural foods,
especially during times of shortage, like after the Spanish Civil War at
the end of the 1930s. But they have also been very valuable during certain
seasons, such as winter and spring, when fresh agricultural products were
scarce. Presently, however, with the development of agribusiness and
global supply chains, it is easy to  nd a variety of cultivated vegetables
in markets throughout the year. As a result of this, and also because of
new socio-economic contexts, the use of noncultivated vegetables has
decreased, and nowadays far fewer species are consumed. Furthermore,
traditional knowledge of wild food plants is quickly disappearing and, in
most cases, survives only with the elderly.
Nevertheless, there is an increasing interest in wild edible plants,
especially in relation to their role in maintaining human health. They
are considered in a recent, cross-cutting initiative about human nutrition
and health by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD 2005), and
212 | Javier Tardío
they are possible sources of nutraceuticals, as has been highlighted
in recent works (Heinrich et al. 2005; The Local Food-Nutraceutical
Consortium 2005).
In this chapter, I analyse and evaluate the gathering and consumption
of wild green vegetables traditionally used in Spain, at least during the
last hundred years. By traditional use, I mean a history of consumption for
more than one generation, what other authors de ne as the minimum time
for using the term ‘traditional’ (Ogoye-Ndegwa and Aagaard-Hansen
2003; Pieroni et al. 2005). The information used in this chapter was derived
from a database of wild edibles traditionally consumed in Spain (Tardío,
Pardo-de-Santayana and Morales 2006). Forty-six ethnobotanical and
ethnographic sources were exhaustively analysed for that compilation,
including our own  eldwork on wild edibles in the province of Madrid
(Tardío, Pascual and Morales 2002, 2005) and also our unpublished  eld
data from other Spanish provinces. For the purposes of our database,
we established seven categories of food use, to classify wild food plants:
vegetables, fruits, beverages, seasoning, preservatives, sweets (including
owers or roots eaten for their sweet  avour) and other food uses, such as
oils,  ours and pickles. In the category of ‘vegetables’ (also called ‘greens’
or ‘green vegetables’, in Spanish verduras) we include those plants whose
leaves, stems or even unripe and green fruits or seeds are consumed,
either stewed, raw in salads or even raw as a snack.
The analysis of these data addresses a series of ethnobotanical questions
in order to characterize the traditional consumption of wild vegetables in
Spain. The  rst question concerns the kinds of plants that people prefer to
eat as vegetables, in terms of botanical family, growth habit and life form
and their status as weeds or nonweeds. The second question concerns
how they were traditionally consumed, in terms of harvesting techniques
(including seasonality), plant parts used, processing techniques, the
effects of taste, and reasons given for maintaining dishes that use wild
vegetables. Finally, wild plants were examined with regard to the social
and cultural implications of gathering and their increasing popularity
as both food and medicine. The analysis presented here is essentially
exploratory: it establishes a descriptive baseline and seeks to uncover
interesting or unusual patterns in the data that might be explored in
future research.
One caveat: it must be stressed that many of the species registered in
our database that were consumed in the past are rarely collected today.
Therefore, although there are many species in the compilation, most of
them are only a reminder of the consumption of wild vegetables in the
past. Perhaps, too, those plants mentioned as still being used today were
of even greater importance in the past. For instance, Anchusa azurea Mill.
(Figure 10.1), predominantly known as lenguaza in Spanish, is mentioned
in a number of these studies but not by a high number of informants. In the
Wild Vegetables in Spain | 213
province of Madrid this species was mentioned in only two of the sixty-
eight surveyed villages. However, the Arabic common name alcalcuz, used
in those villages, seems to be evidence of a much older tradition of use.
Figure 10.1. Anchusa azurea. A Basal leaves; B Boiled leaves lightly fried with
garlic, egg and ham
214 | Javier Tardío
Botanical Characteristics of Spanish Wild Vegetables
This section characterizes the plants selected as wild vegetables, in terms
of botanical family, growth habit and life form and their status as weeds
or nonweeds.
Botanical Families
Of the roughly 7,000 species listed in the Iberian Flora,1 206 species
have been recorded in our database as wild vegetable species. Of these
about one-third (n=61) are from the Asteraceae family (see Figure 10.2).
Other important families are Polygonaceae, Liliaceae, Brassicaceae,
Fabaceae, Rosaceae and Apiaceae, with between ten and fourteen species
each. However, it is necessary to distinguish if the greater number of
species selected in a family is only the result of being a diverse family,
or if there are other characteristics that make their species more likely
to be used as vegetables. Following Moerman (1991, 1994), a regression
analysis between the number of wild vegetables species (VEGSP) and
the total species per family in the Iberian Flora (FISP) has been carried
out (Figure 10.2). The regression line, de ned by the equation VEGSP =
0.02235 + 0.04565 * FISP, shows the predicted number of species used
as vegetables from a given family that might be expected if they were
chosen randomly. If so, greater families would have a bigger number of
green vegetables. The residuals column in Figure 10.2, that is, the distance
from each point and the regression line, indicates how far above or below
from the predicted values the actual number is. These results suggest that
Poaceae (with a residual of -17), Fabaceae (-13), and Caryophyllaceae (-8)
Figure 10.2. Importance of different families of wild species used as green
vegetables. Regression analysis of number of wild vegetables species (VEGSP) on
total species per family in the Iberian Flora (FISP). Discontinuous lines mark the
95 per cent con dence interval for the predicted values
Family FISP VEGSP Res.
Asteraceae (AST) 719 65 32
Polygonaceae (POL) 54 14 12
Liliaceae (LIL) 124 13 7
Brassicaceae (BRA) 287 12 –1
Fabaceae (FAB) 515 11 –13
Rosaceae (ROS) 233 11 0
Apiaceae (API) 117 10 5
Caryophyllaceae (CAR) 300 6 –8
Poaceae (POA) 439 3 –17
Other families* 1705 61
Total 7000 206
*Other families that include species used as
Wild Vegetables in Spain | 215
are greatly underrepresented in spite of the big size of their families. By
contrast, the families situated over the regression line, with a positive
residual value, have a number of species higher than predicted. So,
Asteraceae (with a residual of 32), Polygonaceae (12) and Liliaceae (7) are
overrepresented families, whose species are clearly preferred to be eaten
as vegetables. What is it about these families that make them preferred
as wild vegetables? It appears that these families have species that are
widely distributed across Spain; many have desired biological forms, such
as perennials with a rosette of leaves in Asteraceae and Polygonaceae, or
bulbs and asparagus in Liliaceae; and many species are linked with good
nutritional and gastronomic characteristics.
Growth Habit and Life Form
For analysing habit and life form, four simpli ed categories have been
considered: annual herbs, nonannual herbs (both perennial and biennial),
shrubs and trees. Figure 10.3 shows that more than half (57 per cent) of
the wild vegetables are perennial or biennial plants and that, if taking
into account the growth habit, herbs are clearly predominant (88 per cent)
over shrubs and trees. The most important group is nonannual herbs (45
per cent), followed by annual herbs (43 per cent), shrubs (11 per cent),
and  nally trees (1 per cent), with only three species listed: Ulmus minor
Mill. and Pinus pinea L. (immature fruits and seeds respectively), and
Chamaerops humilis L. (young shoots). The predominance of perennials
(or biennials) over annuals seems quite logical. People have selected over
millennia those plants that were easy to  nd again the next season in
the same place. Most of these species are perennial herbs, usually with
Figure 10.3. Growth habit and life form proportions of wild vegetables
traditionally consumed in Spain
11% 1%
Annual herbs
Nonannual herbs
216 | Javier Tardío
a deep root and a rosette of leaves, which withers in the summer and
sprouts again in the next wet season. They also have remarkable powers
of regeneration from any part of the rootstock that may be severed – a
signi cant feature that enables them to be used in a sustainable way. This
is the case, for instance, for Scolymus hispanicus L., Chondrilla juncea L.,
Taraxacum of cinale Weber and Anchusa azurea Mill.
Annual herbs are also frequently used as vegetables. They are species
that produce a very high number of seeds in favourable environmental
circumstances, which have great longevity and easily germinate under
many situations, although sometimes this germination is discontinuous.
Some of the annuals consumed in Spain are Borago of cinalis L., Portulaca
oleracea L., Silybum marianum (L.) Gaertn., Sonchus oleraceus L. and Papaver
rhoeas L.
Weeds as a Source of Vegetables
It is well known that a high proportion of wild food plants, especially
those used as vegetables, fall inside the cross-cutting category of ‘weeds’
malas hierbas in Spanish. Whether one is referring to weedy vegetables
(Tanji and Nassif 1995; Díaz-Betancourt et al. 1999; Vieira-Odilon and
Vibrans 2001; Rivera et al. 2004; Pieroni et al. 2005) or weedy medicinal
plants (Stepp and Moerman 2001; Stepp 2004), these are plants whose
populations grow entirely or predominantly in markedly human-
disturbed habitats, excluding, of course, cultivated plants (Baker 1974).
Although the category of ‘weeds’ is a cultural and ecological concept,
these plants have interesting features in common, especially their high
reproductive capacity, rapid growth and ability for adapting to different
environmental conditions.
Our list of wild vegetables was compared with a catalogue of weeds
that grow in Spain (Carretero 2004). This book contains information about
2,341 species, which is perhaps an overestimate since it also includes
all those species that occasionally appear as weeds in different kinds of
cultivated  elds. As shown in Table 10.1, the total number of vascular
plant species of the Iberian Flora can be estimated at approximately 7,000
Table 10.1. Weed species as a source for vegetables in Spanish Flora
Weed Not weed Total Species
Vegetables 173 33 206
Not vegetables 2168 4626 6794
Total 2341 4659 7000
χ2 = 243; P<0.0001
Wild Vegetables in Spain | 217
(Ramón Morales, personal communication). Of these roughly one-third
are considered weeds; and of the 206 wild vegetables in the database, a
remarkable 84 per cent can be considered weeds! A Chi Square test (χ2
= 243; P<0.0001) con rms that there is a signi cant preference for weeds
over other plant forms.
In fact, there are many references in Spanish ethnobotanical sources
to the exploitation of some weeds while hand-weeding crops, either for
personal consumption or for animal fodder. A high number of species,
such as Scolymus hispanicus L., Chondrilla juncea L., Cichorium intybus L.,
Crepis vesicaria L. and Raphanus raphanistrum L., have been mentioned as
gathered that way in the past. Moreover, informants frequently mentioned
that plants collected amongst crops are of better quality than those from
other environments. They declared that plants are bigger, whiter and
more succulent because of growing in tilled soils. Two typical cases were
Chondrilla juncea and Cichorium intybus, whose blanched shoots and leaves
are eaten in salads. A modern version of the second species is the ‘witloof’
or ‘Belgian endive’, whose compact, elongated head is the result of being
forced to sprout in complete darkness to keep new leaves tender and pale.
Another example is Asparagus acutifolius L., known widely as espárrago
triguero (‘asparagus from the wheat  elds’), because in past times it could
be found within the cereal crops growing as a weed. Nowadays, the name
seems to make no sense because the species only grows in uncultivated
lands. Some scienti c names also point out the weedy origins of certain
species; for example, the speci c name for Allium ampeloprasum L. means
‘a leek found in the vineyards’. Mesa (1996) mentions that in the province
of Jaén it could be frequently found in olive groves. Some people liked it
so much as an edible food plant, that its growth was encouraged. Much
the same story applies to Borago of cinalis L., which grows as a ‘weed’ in
the homegardens of Jaén.
Consuming Wild Vegetable Plants
This section, describes and analyses some characteristics of the traditional
consumption of wild vegetables in Spain. The preferred plant parts and
the mode of consumption in relation to the quality of the species are
evaluated, and  nally the meaning of some curious recipes made of mixed
wild plants is examined.
Part of the Plant Consumed
Among the different species that have been considered as vegetables, the
utilized part or parts varies from vegetative organs (leaves, stems, bulbs)
to immature reproductive structures (in orescences, fruits and seeds).
218 | Javier Tardío
In some species only a part of the plant is used, such as Silene vulgaris
(Moench) Garcke, whose tender leaves and stems are generally consumed.
However, in other plants several different parts are eaten. For example,
the midrib of the basal leaves of Silybum marianum (L.) Gaertn. is stewed,
while the peeled young shoots and the tender parts of the in orescence
are eaten raw as a snack. In other cases, there is a part of the plant that is
widely consumed and appears in most of the references, but there is also
a different part much less used. This is the case of Scolymus hispanicus, a
thistle whose basal-leaf midribs are broadly consumed in most parts of
Spain (as in many countries of the Mediterranean basin, see Chapter 9 this
volume), though some people eat the peeled young shoots raw as a snack.
For analysis, we have established nine categories of the different parts
1. Tender leaves. This category is formed chie y by plants with a basal
rosette of leaves, most of them of the Asteraceae family. Some other
species whose leaves are eaten, such as Malva sylvestris L. and Crataegus
monogyna Jacq., are also included here.
2. Midribs of basal leaves (penca, in Spanish). This is a special case of the
former category, as most of the plants are thistles and their prickly
leaves need to be peeled. It includes plants of the genus Scolymus,
Silybum, Cynara, Onopordum and Arctium.
3. Leaves and stems. This category includes those species whose life form
is not a basal rosette of leaves, as above, but includes tender parts of
the stems together with the leaves. Typical species are Silene vulgaris,
Montia fontana L. or Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum (L.) Hayek.
4. Young shoots, that sprout from roots or subterranean stems, such as
Asparagus, Tamus, Ruscus; the tips of some climbing plants, like Bryonia,
Humulus, Clematis; the peeled sucker of some bushes, as in Rubus,
Rosa; or leafy shoots such as Cichorium intybus, Foeniculum vulgare
Mill., Chondrilla juncea, Sonchus crassifolius Pourr. ex Willd., Atractylis
gummifera L.; and sometimes including  oral buds as in Sisymbrium
crassifolium Cav.
5. Stems. Includes the stems of Foeniculum vulgare or Allium ampeloprasum;
the basal part of the stems of Scirpus holoschoenus L.; Stipa gigantea Link
and the peduncles of  owers or in orescences of Taraxacum,
Silybum marianum, Oxalis pes-caprae L., Armeria arenaria (Pers.) Schult.
and Aphyllantes monspeliensis L.
6. In orescences. There are several species of the family Asteraceae, such
as those from the genus Silybum, Onopordum, Cynara or Scorzonera,
whose basal part of their tender in orescences are consumed raw as a
7. Immature fruits or seeds. For example from Pinus pinea L. and from
several species of Malva, Vicia and Lathyrus.
Wild Vegetables in Spain | 219
Leaves and stems
Young shoots
Fruits or seeds
Number of reports/2 Number of species
8. Bulbs, from Allium, and roots, from Campanula rapunculus L.
9. Galls, including the tender and  eshy galls of Hypochoeris glabra L. and
also those of Quercus coccifera L.
The relative importance of the different plant parts consumed can be
expressed in terms of the number of species, and also by the number of
use-reports for each category (i.e., the number of references that mention
the edible use of the plant part), as in Figure 10.4. As was pointed out
before, some species have more than one edible part and hence they are
in several categories. It can be seen that the most frequently used plant
part in wild vegetables are the leaves, which are mentioned for half of the
species, followed by leaves and stems (29 per cent) and young shoots (22
per cent). Midribs are also an important plant part, but only if we consider
the high number of use-reports for the species Scolymus hispanicus, which
is one of the most widely consumed thistles in Spain.
Mode of Consumption
Another interesting subject is how the different species were/are
traditionally consumed. They could be eaten raw, sometimes directly in
the  eld as a snack, or used for preparing salads. In many other cases the
Figure 10.4. Importance of the different plant part consumed, expressed by the
number of use-reports and by the number of species mentioned in each category.
To maintain the scale, the number of use-reports has been halved in each case
220 | Javier Tardío
plants are stewed in a variety of ways. With regard to raw consumption, I
distinguish between plants eaten raw as a snack and those used to prepare
salads, because I think that the latter represents perhaps a greater level of
appreciation for those species that are worth taking home to be prepared
in a salad. Figure 10.5 shows the number of species consumed in each
of the three main categories, and the overlap among them. Note that in
some cases (e.g., species of Malva), a different part of the plant is used
when consumed raw (e.g., immature fruits) or stewed (e.g., young leaves
and stems).
Figure 10.5 shows that 141 species (68 per cent) are consumed stewed
(see dishes in Figure 10.6), roughly half of these exclusively, while the
other half are also consumed raw, either as a snack or in salads, the latter
being a somewhat larger category. Are there any common characteristics
of the species in these categories? For instance, are any of the species that
are only cooked toxic if eaten raw? Do the species that are eaten raw have
valuable minerals or vitamins that might be lost if cooked? Where are the
species with a reputed higher gastronomic quality?
This last question refers to the species that, perhaps because of their
taste or due to their nutritive characteristics, are broadly consumed. I
developed an indicator based on the number of use-reports of each kind
of use for a particular species; that is, the number of references for one
plant used in a particular way. We can suppose that if a widely distributed
Figure 10.5. Number of species consumed in each category, showing the
overlapping among them. In parentheses is the mean number of use-reports for
all the species of that category
71 (3)
39 (10)
20 (17)
11 (5)
20 (2) 6 (7) 39 (2)
Raw (135: 66%)
Raw in
salads (87)
Raw as a
Stewed (141: 68%)
Wild Vegetables in Spain | 221
species has been reported as a wild vegetable in many ethnobotanical
sources, then it is because of its gastronomic quality. That is the case, for
instance, of Scolymus hispanicus, a plant that can be consumed in all three
ways and was mentioned thirty-four times as being eaten mainly stewed;
Silene vulgaris, from the group of plants that are consumed stewed and
raw in salads, with  fty-one use-reports of its consumption, generally
stewed; and  nally, Asparagus acutifolius, only stewed, which has thirty-
ve use-reports. Taking into account the use-reports of all the plants that
belong to each group we can calculate the mean value for the group. This
coef cient reveals whether there are many species broadly reported inside
this group. The higher the coef cient, the higher proportion of species
with a high number of use-reports will be in this category.
Figure 10.3 also shows, in parentheses, the mean number of use-reports
of each category. Therefore, we can see that the groups with the higher
mean numbers of reports are in the intersection of plants consumed stewed
and plants consumed raw in salads, especially in the intersection of the
three modes of consumption. Almost all the species with a greater number
of use-reports are located in this area, such as: Foeniculum vulgare, Scolymus
hispanicus (Figure 10.6A), Cichorium intybus, Malva sylvestris, Silybum
marianum (Figure 10.6D), and Taraxacum of cinale in the ‘three modes of
Figure 10.6. Dishes prepared with Scolymus hispanicus, Rorippa nasturtium-
aquaticum, Tamus communis and Silybum marianum. A Midribs of Scolymus
hispanicus fritters; B Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum soup; C Soup of Tamus communis
young shoots; D Boiled midribs of Silybum marianum lightly fried with garlic and
222 | Javier Tardío
consumption’ group; and Silene vulgaris, Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum,
Portulaca oleracea, Sonchus oleraceus, Chondrilla juncea and Papaver rhoeas,
in the group of plants that are consumed stewed and raw in salads. All of
these species are appreciated for their quality; they can be eaten stewed or
raw, because of their good  avour. From within these two groups, three of
the most extensively consumed plants can be identi ed. The tender leaves
and stems of Silene vulgaris, known as colleja, are eaten mostly stewed
in many parts of Spain, in omelettes, with scrambled eggs, and also as a
garnish for potaje, a typical Spanish dish often consumed during Lent. The
peeled basal leaves of Scolymus hispanicus are traditionally boiled and then
fried lightly in olive oil with garlic and cured ham and sometimes with
hard-boiled or scrambled eggs, often also served as a garnish for cocido,
another traditional Spanish dish. Finally, the tender leaves and stems of
Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum (watercress) are consumed mainly raw in
salads but sometimes also in stews and soups (Figure 10.6B).
Another interesting group is the one formed by the vegetables that are
always consumed stewed. Most of these species are only consumed in this
way because of their taste, which is not so pleasant when eaten raw. That
is the case of Asparagus acutifolius or Beta maritima L. However, some bitter
or strongly  avoured plants can be sweetened through repeated boiling,
such as Ruscus aculeatus L., Rumex pulcher L. and Asparagus albus L. Other
species are unpleasant when raw because of their rough external texture,
for instance Anchusa azurea, Echium plantagineum L. or Picris echioides L.,
though that can be mitigated when boiled, too.
As stated before, the raw species considered of better quality because of
a pleasant  avour are mostly used in salads. The small leaves and stems of
Montia fontana, the young shoots of Chamaerops humilis L., the basal leaves
of Reichardia picroides (L.) Roth and the leaves and roots of Campanula
rapunculus are some of the species most widely consumed raw in salads.
Finally, some examples of parts of green vegetables only eaten raw as
a snack can be mentioned, such as: the basal part of the stems of Scirpus
holoschoenus; the leaves of Oxalis acetosella L. and other species of the same
genus; the peeled young shoots of Rosa canina L.; the unripe fruits of
several species of Erodium; and the immature seeds of Vicia villosa Roth
and V. lutea L.
Mixed Wild Vegetable Recipes
With regard to other curious recipes for cooking wild vegetables, in four
provinces of southeastern and eastern Spain (Almería, Murcia, Valencia and
Albacete) people eat a blend of some nine to  fteen different wild species
in a vegetable stew. The recipes are known by different names, such as las
hierbas (Martínez Lirola, González-Tejero and Molero Mesa 1997), ensalada
de matas or hervido (Rabal 2000) or herbes bullides (Oltra 1998), and with the
Wild Vegetables in Spain | 223
generic name collejas (Verde, Rivera and Obón 1998). In the provinces of
Castellón, Valencia and Alicante, also in the east of Spain, a blend of wild
vegetables is added to different kinds of vegetable pies known as pastissets,
minxos or coquetes (Mulet 1991; Oltra 1998; Pellicer 2001; Pellicer 2004a).
Table 10.2 shows the species used in some of those recipes.
The recipe called las hierbas comes from the Natural Park of Sierra del
Cabo de Gata-Níjar in the province of Almería. The tender leaves of the
different species are boiled, then drained and minced. Subsequently, they
are added to a mixture of tomato, onion, pork fat and meat slightly fried
in olive oil, along with boiled chickpeas and potatoes, and seasoned with
dried red pepper, garlic, cumin, cinnamon, aniseed and salt. The whole
mixture is then covered with water and boiled together till reduced.
In Torrepacheco, a town of the province of Murcia, the recipe of hervido
or ensalada de matas is much easier to prepare. All the plants are boiled
together, drained, and  nally dressed with olive oil, vinegar and salt.
Sometimes people prepare the recipe with fewer species, often only with
Beta maritima, the most common species in the surroundings of the town.
The dish herbes bullides, from the village of Quatretonda in the province
of Valencia, is prepared in a very similar way. Only the less appreciated
species are used in this dish. They are boiled and dressed with olive oil
and vinegar, and sometimes with some tender young shoots of fennel
(Foeniculum vulgare). Frequently, the boiled vegetables are slightly fried in
olive oil with a bit of garlic.
In the southeast of the province of Albacete, in some of the villages
studied by Verde, Rivera and Obón (1998), the blend of vegetables used in
stews was called collejas. This is the name given in a great part of Spain to
one of the most valued species, Silene vulgaris, known locally as colleja  na
(see Table 10.2). Collejas vegetables are boiled, drained, made into balls and
nally fried lightly in olive oil with a bit of garlic and vinegar, sometimes
also with scrambled eggs. A similar recipe, caldo verde, is prepared in the
same region with fewer species, for instance Capsella bursa-pastoris, Silene
vulgaris, Foeniculum vulgare, Cichorium intybus and Roemeria hybrida.
According to Mulet (1991), the pastissets de brosses or pastissets de
verdura are typical vegetable dishes of the Spanish region of Comunidad
Valenciana. This author reported them to be prepared with Sonchus asper,
S. oleraceus, S. tenerrimus and Taraxacum of cinale. In the pastissets de verdura,
mentioned by Pellicer (2001), at least two species are employed: Silene
vulgaris and Papaver rhoeas. Oltra (1998) describes a recipe of pastissets
d’herbes from Quatretonda (Valencia) with up to ten plant species. He said
that this recipe is the favourite for people who like cooking with herbs
and they use only the  nest species. For making the pastissets, a dough of
our, olive oil, salt, lemonade or beer or wine and a pinch of sugar (some
people add baking powder as well) is prepared. Circular pieces of dough
are covered with the stewed blend of vegetables, cod sh or tuna  sh and
224 | Javier Tardío
Table 10.2. Species used in different blends of wild vegetables mentioned
in Spain. For comparative purposes, their presence in two Italian recipes is
included. The symbol ‘*’ represent the presence of a species and ‘+’ the use of
other species of the same genera.
Total number of species 11 15 15 9 10 38 20-40
Eryngium campestre L. *
Foeniculum vulgare Mill. * * * *
Anacyclus clavatus (Desf.) Pers. * * *
Calendula arvensis L. *
Carthamus lanatus L. * *
Chondrilla juncea L. *
Chrysanthemum coronarium L. * *
Cichorium intybus L. *****
Crepis vesicaria L. * * +
Hypochoeris radicata L. * * *
Lactuca serriola L. *
Launaea nudicaulis (L.) Hook.
l. *
Leontodon taraxacoides (Vill.)
Mérat **
Mantisalca salmantica (L.) Briq.
& Cavill. **
Picris comosa (Boiss.) B.D. Jacks. * + +
Reichardia intermedia (Sch. Bip.)
Cout. *++
Reichardia tingitana (L.) Roth * + +
Rhagadiolus stellatus (L.) Gaertn. *
Scolymus hispanicus L. *
Sonchus asper (L.) Hill * *
Sonchus oleraceus L. * * * * *
Sonchus tenerrimus L. * * *
Wild Vegetables in Spain | 225
Table 10.2. continued
Urospermum picroides (L.) Scop.
ex F.W. Schmidt **+
Anchusa azurea Mill. *
Borago of cinalis L. * * *
Capsella bursa-pastoris (L.)
Medik. *
Eruca vesicaria (L.) Cav. *
Silene diversifolia Otth * +
Silene vulgaris (Moench) Garcke * * * * * *
Beta maritima L. ** *+*
Scorpiurus muricatus L. * *
Papaper rhoeas L. * * * *
Roemeria hybrida (L.) DC. *
Plantago coronopus L. * **+
Limonium sinuatum (L.) Mill. *
Emex spinosa (L.) Campd. *
Rumex acetosa L. * *
HIER: ‘Las hierbas’, Martínez-Lirola, González-Tejero and Molero Mesa 1997;
ENSA: ‘Ensalada de matas’, Rabal 2000; COLL: ‘Collejas’, Verde, Rivera and
Obón 1998; HERB: ‘Herbes bullides’, Oltra 1998; PAST: ‘Pastissets d’herbes’,
Oltra 1998; PREB: ‘Prebuggiun’, Bissio and Minuto 1998; MINE: ‘Minestrella’,
Pieroni 1998.
226 | Javier Tardío
bits of hard-boiled egg and  nally baked in the oven. In a variation of the
recipe, the pastissets are fried in olive oil.
Minxos, from the province of Alicante, are little pancakes, usually
made with corn  our kneaded with a bit of olive oil, covered or stuffed
with fried green vegetables. According to Pellicer (2004a), in Castell de la
Serrella (Alicante) people use at least Centaurea calcitrapa, Sonchus oleraceus,
Papaver rhoeas and Foeniculum vulgare. Finally, coquetes are rolls stuffed
with vegetables, such as Silene vulgaris and Papaver rhoeas (Pellicer 2001).
Similar examples of recipes with a varied mix of wild vegetables have
been noted in Italy, although sometimes with a much higher number of
species being used. One of them, from the northwest of Italy (Liguria), is
the prebuggiun, a blend of plants gathered in the  elds and then added to
soups, omelettes or stuf ng for more elaborate dishes (Bisio and Minuto
1998). Another similar ethnobotanical reference to mixed wild vegetables
has been reported by Pieroni (1999) from north Tuscany in central Italy.
In that region, the most common culinary preparation of vegetables is in
the form of vegetable soups, usually mixing wild and cultivated species.
In Gallicano, there is a recipe, called minestrella, prepared from twenty
to forty different species. Finally, in the south of Italy, in the region of
Basilicata, a kind of soup called mënestra maritate is prepared with more
than ten wild herbs (Pieroni 2003) and in Calabria there are also recipes
that include a blend of at least eight wild vegetables (Nebel 2005).
The fact that similar blends of vegetables have been consumed in
different parts of southern Europe suggests a common past, perhaps
the remains of an ancient Mediterranean custom. But there are enough
reasons to consider that these blends of leafy vegetables might in fact be
a more general custom, typical of all human groups and acquired during
the evolution of our species. According to Johns (1994), these types of
wild vegetable mixtures, also consumed in Africa, have been maintained
for two main reasons. On one hand, the mixture of bitter and nonbitter
vegetables, sometimes even with cultivated ones, can be a way of making
the bitter ones more palatable. The same idea is expressed by Verde,
Rivera and Obón (1998) and Rabal (2000), who report that the mix of
different species is made for covering bad  avours; for example, the use
of fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) hides the bitterness of Sonchus oleraceus and
S. tenerrimus. On the other hand, following Johns (1994), this behaviour
of mixing wild vegetables maintains the knowledge of the usefulness
of some plants of lesser quality. So, when the preferred wild vegetables
become scarce for climatic reasons, people simply increase the proportion
of available edible plants in the mix. This explanation supports  ndings
by Oltra (1998), who states that the dish of herbes bullides, although now
quite rare, was surely an important part of the diet of their ancestors, and
even during the hard times of the last century, was a complement to the
daily diet during cold winter days.
Wild Vegetables in Spain | 227
The Seasonality of Harvesting and Consumption of Wild
Most green vegetables are consumed fresh, therefore harvesting and
consumption times coincide. They are primarily collected in spring and
hence some popular proverbs connect them with its arrival, as in this
chapter’s opening quotation. There are several species, such as Silene
vulgaris and Rumex pulcher (Figure 10.7), whose harvest is often for dishes
traditionally consumed during Lent, the period from Ash Wednesday to
Easter, covering the end of winter and the  rst part of spring.
There is great climatic diversity across Spain’s various regions resulting
from the range of latitudes and altitudes. Therefore, the exact time of
gathering vegetables varies depending on the region and sometimes, due
to the irregularity of the Mediterranean climate, on the year. In warmer
areas, especially in the lowlands of the south and east of Spain, wild
vegetables can be harvested in winter and in some cases even in autumn,
whereas in colder and mountainous areas, harvesting can last until the
beginning of summer. Some species, such as Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum,
Silene vulgaris or Allium ampeloprasum, are collected for a second time in
autumn, because of the mild wet weather of the east and centre of the
country. In Extremadura, a western region with mild winters, there are
several species typically collected from December to March, such as Montia
fontana, Crepis vesicaria, Tolpis barbata (L.) Gaertn., Hypochoeris radicata L.,
Leontodon taraxacoides (Vill.) Mérat, Rumex pulcher and Scolymus hispanicus
(Blanco and Cuadrado 2000).
But in most of the regions, and for most of the species, the typical gathering
season for vegetables is the end of winter and the beginning of spring. This
strong seasonality of wild vegetables is precisely, in my opinion, one of the
reasons for its maintenance in agricultural societies, since it complements
the harvesting period for the majority of cultivated plants. Nevertheless, at
present many kinds of cultivated vegetables can be found in the markets, at
almost any time of the year. So, wild vegetables are no longer necessary and
their consumption today is much less than in the past.
Social and Cultural Aspects of Gathering Vegetables
According to Etkin (1994), one of the reasons for neglecting wild plants
in diet surveys is the fact that women and children are involved in the
collection of these foods. She also suggests that while recent studies
have included women-centred activities, they could be expanded by
considering children’s work, because of the range and quantity of food
consumed and also collected by them. Although our focus when compiling
the information in the database was on the consumed plant species rather
228 | Javier Tardío
Figure 10.7. A Tender basal leaves of Rumex pulcher; B Tender leaves of Silene
than the social and cultural aspects of the gathering, we did also record
some relevant data about those subjects.
In Spain, there are many noncultivated vegetables that are typically
consumed by children. They are among the species eaten raw as a snack
and some of the most frequently mentioned are listed here: the unripe
fruits of Malva sylvestris and other Malva species (called panecillos ‘little
bread’); the basal part of the stems of Scirpus holoschoenus; the leaves
and stems of several Rumex species with an acidic  avour (R. acetosa, R.
induratus Boiss. & Reut., R. scutatus L., R. acetosella L.); the leaves and
stems of Oxalis acetosella and other species of the same genus, also with
acidic taste; the stem and leaves of Foeniculum vulgare and Scandix australis
L., with their characteristic aniseed taste; the tender parts of the unripe
in orescence, such as the bottom of the in orescence of Scorzonera laciniata
L. or the ‘artichokes’ of Silybum marianum; the unripe fruits of several
species of Erodium (E. cicutarium (L.) L’Hér., E. malacoides (L.) L’Hér.); or
the immature seeds of various species of the Fabaceae family (Lathyrus
cicera L., Vicia villosa and V. lutea).
Regarding the role of women across Spain, they have a rich knowledge of
wild plant resources because they are usually responsible for the activities
of foraging and also for the processing, preservation and preparation of the
Wild Vegetables in Spain | 229
food. This issue has been reported from different cultures and countries
around the world, such us Sudan (Gullick 1999), Nepal (Daniggelis 2003),
Canada (Turner 2003) and Italy (Pieroni 2003). In Spanish ethnobotanical
sources, some references also state that women usually undertake the
gathering and preparing of wild vegetables (Oltra 1998; Verde, Rivera and
Obón 1998; Blanco and Cuadrado 2000; Tardío, Pascual and Morales 2002;
Pellicer 2004b). They mention that sometimes women go in groups to seek
out wild green vegetables and, at times, they collect along the wayside
while going about other chores, such as washing clothes in the rivers.
There are some exceptions to this general rule and men are sometimes
mentioned as gatherers of wild food plants. That is the case for some of
our informants in Madrid who earn extra income selling wild vegetables
and mushrooms to restaurants. A more typical case is the consumption
of raw vegetables by men while hunting in the  eld, such as the widely
used stems of Foeniculum vulgare or the more restricted use of the leaves of
Carduncellus dianius Webb (Pellicer 2004b). But one of the most important
occasions where men collect and prepare wild vegetables is when they are
working as shepherds far away from their houses for long periods of time.
Typical of transhumance pastoralists, during the winter the animals graze
on the lowland pastures of mild-climate regions and at the end of spring
the animals are taken up to the mountain pastures where they graze for
the summer. During those long periods, shepherds prepare their own
food, sometimes using wild plants, such as Allium ampeloprasum or Rumex
papillaris Boiss. & Reut., for making milk soups and other recipes with
Scolymus hispanicus, Onopordum macracanthum Schousb., Papaver rhoeas and
Chenopodium bonus-henricus L. There is even a species of the Asteraceae
family, Mantisalca salmantica (L.) Briq. & Cavill., whose Spanish name is
pan de pastor (‘shepherd’s bread’).
Most wild green vegetables are not appreciated by the general public,
and are often considered as symbols of poverty (González Turmo 1997).
They are frequently associated with scarcity periods, such as ‘the years
of famine’ in the 1940s after the Spanish Civil War. This is particularly
the case for species with a bitter taste, such as Arctium minus Bernh.
and Cichorium intybus. For other species, the local name captures this
connotation; for instance, one of the Spanish names used for Bryonia
dioica Jacq. is espárragos de pobre (poor people’s asparagus). This negative
reference can also be found in popular literature, such as the popular
Spanish proverb mentioned at the beginning of this chapter.
However, this is not always the case. Wealthy people often consume
wild vegetables too, presumably because of their taste. For instance,
Scolymus hispanicus and Silene vulgaris were collected by poor people
and sold to the richer citizens of the villages (Sánchez López et al. 1994;
Fernández Ocaña 2000). These two species, together with Asparagus
acutifolius and in some regions Montia fontana, Cichorium intybus, Cynara
230 | Javier Tardío
humilis L. and Silybum marianum, have been sold in markets or door-to-
door. Nowadays most of them are rarely found in markets, except for the
midribs of Scolymus hispanicus, which, although not easily available, are
possible to obtain prepared and preserved in bottles.
Wild Vegetables: Food or Medicine?
Over the last 150 years or so, biomedicine has increasingly focused
attention on the speci city of both disease and treatment and by doing
so, has positioned food outside the domain of therapeutics. Science has
regarded food as chemically mundane, of no relevance to the disease
process (Etkin 1996). But this was not the case either during the history
of biomedicine or in Spanish popular culture. Food and health have
always been clearly interrelated, as is shown in the seventeenth-century
literary classic Don Quixote, where Cervantes (1615: XLII, 161v) claims
‘the health of the whole body is forged in the workshop of the stomach’.
In recent decades, among the scienti c and medical elites, the idea of
the multifunctionality of foods and their in uence on health has been
renewed and there is a growing literature and commercial interest in
‘functional foods’, ‘pharmafoods’ and ‘nutraceuticals’.
Recent ethnobotanical studies have shown that many wild food plants
are also used for medicinal purposes throughout the world (Coupland
1989; Etkin 1994; Pieroni 1999; Bonet and Vallès 2002; Pieroni et al. 2002b;
Guarrera 2003; Verde et al. 2003; Pieroni and Price 2006). In our compilation
of wild vegetables traditionally used in Spain, at least 47 of the 206 species
recorded are also said to be used as medicinal plants for internal use.
The young stems and leaves of Malva sylvestris are considered useful as
an anti-catarrhal, either in decoctions (sometimes with the  owers, and
sweetened with honey) (Villar et al. 1987; Gil Pinilla 1995), or even eaten
boiled as a vegetable (Galán 1993); this last preparation has also been
mentioned to cure stomach ache (Pellicer 2001). Both Theophrastus (third
century ) and Dioscorides ( rst century ) recorded similar medicinal
uses for this species (Teofrasto 1988; Laguna 1555).
There are many other examples of plants used for both purposes, such
as Apium nodi orum (L.) Lag., reported as a digestive (Verde et al. 2003)
or as an intestinal anti-in ammatory (Bonet and Vallès 2002); Mantisalca
salmantica (Triano et al. 1998; Pellicer 2004b) and Reichardia picroides
(Bonet and Vallès 2002; Parada et al. 2002), reported as hypoglycemiants,
or Taraxacum of cinale and other species of the same genus, reported as
hepatoprotectors (Bonet and Vallès 2002; Verde et al. 2003).
Other wild vegetables have lost their function as a medicine, which they
had in ancient times, and are just considered foods today. Bryonia dioica
and Tamus communis L. (Figure 10.6C), whose young shoots are widely
Wild Vegetables in Spain | 231
eaten as asparagus, were considered by Dioscorides in the  rst century
 to be diuretics and have other medicinal qualities (Laguna 1555). In
those cases, the current food use could be a reminder of their ancient
medicinal use. This seems to agree with the model of ‘nonfood  rst’ or
‘medicinal  rst’ that was pointed out by Etkin and Ross (1994), studying
a Hausa population in northern Nigeria. They suggested that many of
the wild edible plants used by Hausa were  rst discovered and used as
medicines, instead of the conventional model of ‘food  rst’ that states
that people learn about medicines only secondarily to their search for
food. In my opinion, local knowledge of food and that of medicine are so
interconnected, and evidence for origin of uses is so slim, that knowledge
acquisition and transformation could easily be explained by both models.
Nevertheless, how foods became medicines or vice-versa is surely less
important than the fact of their multifunctionality.
The medicinal value of some foods is not just for healing diseases but
also for providing health-enhancing substances other than calories and
proteins, such as vitamins and minerals. These micronutrient supplements
are critical in a diet based on staple agricultural and livestock products.
Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum (watercress), one of the most commonly
harvested wild vegetables in Spain and other parts of the world, is a
very wholesome and nutritious plant with a well known reputation as a
spring tonic because of its exceptional richness in vitamins and minerals,
especially iron, found in its leaves (PFAF 2003). That said, recent studies
seem to show that the bene cial effects of fruits and vegetables on the risk
of cardiovascular disease and cancer may not rely on the effect of the well
characterized antioxidants, such as vitamin E and C and β-carotene, but
rather on other antioxidants or nonantioxidant phytochemicals, or on an
additive action of different compounds present in foods such as α-linolenic
acid, various phenolic compounds and  bre (Simopoulos 2003).
Although still quite scarce, there are some recent studies on the
nutritional and functional composition of some wild species used in
the Mediterranean area. Bianco and Santamaria (2003) investigated the
nutritional value of some edible species used in southern Italy and found
high levels of minerals often greater than several cultivated vegetables.
Zeghichi et al. (2003) described the nutritional composition of twenty-
ve wild edible plants of Crete and pointed out that all plants contained
considerable amounts of antioxidants and minerals. They found, for
example, a high concentration of phenols in Crepis vesicaria, one of the
vegetables used in Spain. This species, and also Papaver rhoeas, showed in
vitro antioxidant activity (Pieroni et al. 2002a). Schaffer et al. (2005) found
promising antioxidant activity in Cichorium intybus, Sonchus oleraceus
and Papaver rhoeas, though they found important differences in plants of
different origin and an unclear correlation between the antioxidant activity
and the polyphenol content. The works of Guil-Guerrero and collaborators
232 | Javier Tardío
(Guil-Guerrero, Rodríguez-García and Torija-Isasa 1997; Guil-Guerrero et
al. 1998; Guil-Guerrero, Giménez-Martínez and Torija-Isasa 1998; Guil-
Guerrero and Rodríguez-García 1999; Guil-Guerrero, Rebolloso-Fuentes
and Torija-Isasa 2003) discovered, for example, high concentrations of
ascorbic acid in Chenopodium album and Sonchus oleraceus, high levels of
carotenoids in Urtica dioica L. and Sonchus oleraceus and a high content of
α-linolenic in the leaves of Urtica dioica. Recent studies of Silene vulgaris,
one of the main Spanish wild vegetables, have found good nutritional
potential with a remarkably high level of essential fatty α-linolenic (18:3ω-
3) and linoleic (18:2ω-6) acids (Alarcón, Ortiz and García 2006). Hamazaki
and Okuyama (2001) emphasise the great importance of ω-3 fatty acids for
normal growth and development. They add that these compounds may
play an important role in the prevention and treatment of coronary artery
disease, hypertension, arthritis, other in ammatory and autoimmune
disorders and cancer.
Finally, medicinal plants are often toxic when consumed in large
quantities or if not processed by leaching or cooking. Such toxic plants
used as vegetables in Spain include Tamus communis, Bryonia dioica,
Clematis vitalba L., Atractylis gummifera, Papaver rhoeas and Lathyrus cicera
(Tardío, Pardo-de-Santayana and Morales 2006). Fortunately, however, in
all cases the part consumed is either free of toxic compounds or contains
only low levels.
Conclusions and Future Possibilities
This chapter has summarized and discussed our current knowledge of the
traditional uses of wild vegetables in Spain, but there is scope for plenty
of future research, both on the ecology, physiology and nutritional and
medicinal properties of the plants, and on the economics and cultural
aspects of plant use.
Although wild green vegetables have been a very important supplement
to the diet and even used as medicines in the past, nowadays the tradition
of using most of them is all but disappearing, mainly because they are
thought not to be necessary. The Spanish ethnobotanical surveys carried
out in the last decades, and perhaps those that could be urgently completed
in the next years, will contribute, at least, to a register of this traditional
knowledge and avoid losing it forever. However, no written record of
plants and uses can capture all the cultural knowledge embedded in the
practices associated with harvesting, processing and consuming wild
plants. Thus it may be necessary in future survey work to use video and
audio documentation to fully capture the local knowledge needed for an
effective knowledge bank, which will make it much easier, more natural
and more human to transmit that information to future generations.
Wild Vegetables in Spain | 233
Fortunately, the future for wild plant collecting appears more promising
than ever, as there appears to be a renewed interest in wild edibles in Spain
and elsewhere, especially in mushrooms. There are several reasons for this
new interest. One of them may be a higher awareness of environmental
issues and the desire of urban dwellers to reconnect with rural areas and
lifestyles. Urban people like to look for plants or mushrooms as they walk
through the countryside. The rediscovery of the positive in uence of the
consumption of fruits and vegetables in human health; the popularity of
herbal medicine; and also the rising literature on the nutritional potential
of noncultivated vegetables of the Mediterranean area may also have
contributed to this increasing interest in wild plants. Finally, from a
culinary point of view, the gastronomic interest of urban chefs and diners
in discovering ‘new’  avours from what are really traditional dishes has
transformed some wild plants from former poverty foods to speciality
products and gourmet ingredients.
For all these reasons, traditional knowledge about wild vegetables
could be an attractive and pro table resource for the rural development
of many regions, especially the less af uent ones. The exploitation of these
natural and cultural resources in small-scale enterprises could represent
a signi cant source of income for the inhabitants of those regions. These
activities could be included either in the tourism industry or in the
agrofood sector. Local rural or ecotourism enterprises could offer courses
to teach urban people how to recognize, gather and cook wild vegetables.
Local restaurants, small inns and hotels could include traditional dishes of
noncultivated vegetables on their menus.
On a more commercial scale, sustainable harvesting, organic production,
processing and marketing of natural plant products for sale locally or
overseas is also a future possibility. Spain already exports huge amounts of
cultivated vegetables, so adding noncultivated or semicultivated products
may not require substantial investments to establish commodity chains.
However, many of these products might only appeal to niche markets
and so a substantial marketing campaign might be required. But then,
with growing interests in organic foods, slow food, etc., now might be the
time for Spain’s edible greens to expand into other markets in Europe and
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... Documentaron sus usos culinarios tradicionales, su estacionalidad, etnoecología, y su potencial económico y nutricional. Tardío (2010) analizó la recolección y consumo de vegetales silvestres tradicionalmente usados en España en el último siglo. Analizó la base de datos de 46 estudios etnobotánicos e hizo trabajo de campo en Madrid y otras provincias de España. ...
... Se refiere al período de tiempo en el que son recolectados los frutos o las partes de plantas silvestres alimenticias por la población, lo que de acuerdo con lo percibido está en dependencia de la época de cosecha de cada especie (Castillo y Cáceres, 2009). La estacionalidad en la disponibilidad de las plantas silvestres alimenticias ha sido registrada en distintos lugares del mundo, y estos recursos frente a la producción agrícola tienen un carácter enriquecedor, complementario y, en ocasiones, básico; y es que, a lo largo del año, estos alimentos pueden subsanar las deficiencias en la producción de alimentos de origen agrícola (Tardío, 2010;Pieroni et al., 2005, Blancas et al., 2013Casas et al., 1987). ...
... Las plantas silvestres alimenticias se consideran recursos que permiten aliviar el hambre en épocas de escasez y tenían más importancia en el pasado cuando no se tenía dinero para comprar alimentos foráneos para abastecerse. Este fenómeno también ha sido registrado en el Mediterráneo, Asia y Mesoamérica donde las plantas silvestres han jugado un rol importante complementando la oferta de alimentos cultivados especialmente en tiempos de escasez y tienen un rol relevante como un amortiguador contra el hambre (Tardío, 2010;Guttman, 1999citado por Barucha y Pretty, 2010Casas, 1987). Palomino y Ojeda (2016), señalan que las temporadas de lluvia, que se relaciona cuando las plantas cultivadas todavía están creciendo y aún no hay toda la cosecha, son conocidas como los meses de hambre ya que la alimentación es en base a lo que aún queda guardado de la campaña anterior, y de los alimentos silvestres. ...
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Esta investigación etnobotánica fue parte del Proyecto "Intensificación Ecológica y Socioeconómica de la Pequeña Agricultura Andina" (AGROECO), y tiene como objetivo determinar la diversidad de plantas silvestres alimenticias a partir del registro de su uso, y de los conocimientos y prácticas tradicionales asociados a estas, en la comunidad campesina Janac Chuquibamba (Cusco- Perú), para contribuir a la seguridad alimentaria de las familias. Los objetivos específicos de la tesis fueron a) determinar taxonómicamente las plantas silvestres alimenticias en la comunidad campesina; y, b) describir las percepciones locales, el uso, la época de recolección, el manejo, la comercialización y la transmisión de conocimiento de las plantas silvestres alimenticias en la comunidad campesina. Los datos fueron recolectados entre 2013 y 2014 a través de observación participativa, entrevistas semiestructuradas, listados libres, grupos focales, mapeo participativo y caminatas etnobotánicas. Documentamos 48 plantas silvestres alimenticias con nombres locales y clasificación taxonómica, pertenecientes a 26 familias botánicas. Además, los agricultores mencionaron dentro de esta categoría 7 especies de otros reinos: 4 hongos, 1 alga y 2 líquenes. En la dieta de la comunidad altoandina de Janac Chuquibamba aún se incluye una amplia gama de especies de plantas silvestres, a través de diferentes preparaciones en la gastronomía local. Los agricultores informaron propiedades medicinales de muchas de estas plantas, por lo que se recomiendan estudios fitoquímicos y nutricionales de las mismas. En cuanto a la época de recolección, la tendencia es que haya más recursos disponibles en la temporada de lluvias. Las plantas silvestres alimenticias tienen diferentes niveles de manejo como la simple recolección, tolerancia, promoción, protección, trasplante, siembra y plantación. Los campesinos informaron vender 26 especies de plantas silvestres alimenticias en los mercados cercanos de Lamay, Calca, Coya, Pisac, Urubamba y Chincheros, e incluso en Cusco. El aprendizaje sobre las plantas silvestres alimenticias ocurre principalmente en la niñez; y la transmisión del conocimiento predominante es vertical, donde la madre es el principal agente de transmisión.
... Other highly represented families were Lamiaceae (33 taxa; 275 records), Rosaceae (33; 219), Brassicaceae (21; 97), Apiaceae (14; 133), Amaryllidaceae (14; 46), and Fabaceae (14; 47) which collectively represented 36% of the listed taxa. These families are among the most important of the Tuscan flora, with a high number of taxa [31], and appear as the most relevant families in several ethnobotanical studies in Italy [8,41] and in the Mediterranean area [42,45,52]. A regression analysis was carried out between the number of edible wild species recorded in this paper and the total number of both native and alien species per family in the Tuscan Flora. ...
... Fabaceae (−11.2), and Orchidaceae (−9.2). Similar results have been reported for the edible wild vegetables in Spain [52]. Specifically, Poaceae showed a very low number of wild food species (2), even if this family is the second richest of the Tuscan flora [31]. ...
... Geophytes were 12%, while chamephytes and lianas were 6% and 2%, respectively. The predominance of hemicryptophytes (both perennial and biennial herbs) on therophytes (annual herbs) is a common finding in ethnobotanical studies; on the other hand, people favored the selection of those species which were easy to collect year after year in a given place [52]. Most hemicryptophytes and therophytes were scapose and secondarily rosulate; they are plants widely spread in dry and strongly human-affected habitats. ...
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This paper provides an overview of wild food plants traditionally used in the gastronomy of Tuscany, an Italian region with high biological diversity and whose cultural heritage is well known. Forty-nine bibliographic sources, including five unpublished studies, were reviewed. A list of species with ecological characteristics, plant parts used, use category (food, liquor, or seasoning), methods of preparation (raw or cooked), and recipes is presented. The use of 357 taxa (3711 use reports, URs), was recorded, belonging to 215 genera and 72 botanical families. Over the total taxa, 12 are new for Tuscany, 52 seem not to be present in other Italian regions, and 54 were not detected in the consulted European ethnobotanical literature. Of these taxa, 324 (3117 URs) were used as food, while 49 (178 URs) and 81 (416 URs) were used for liquor and seasoning, respectively. Of the 17 different food recipes, cooked vegetables constituted the largest group, followed by salads, omelets, snacks, and fillings. The chemical composition of the recorded food plants and the possible safety risks associated to their consumption, as well as their traditional medicinal use, are also shown. This review highlights the richness of ethnobotanical knowledge in Tuscany. Such biocultural heritage can be a “source of inspiration” for agriculture. As a reservoir of potential new crops, wild edible flora may contribute to the development of emerging horticultural sectors such as vertical farming and microgreens production. Moreover, the nutrient content and healthy properties of many wild food plants reported in this study has the ability to meet consumer demand for functional foods.
... In the vegetables, the context of consumption and the processing methods are analyzed by means of a Venn diagram, following Tardío (2010), establishing three main groups: (1) consumption raw in the countryside without preparation; (2) consumption raw in salads, so the plants are brought home to be prepared and dressed; and (3) consumption after being cooked. ...
... They were so valuable in those periods that the villages with more abundance of sweet acorns suffered the visit of neighboring villagers who steal them at night. Famine foods include bitter, rough-texture herbs like Hypochaeris radicata L. or Cichorium intybus L. that need repeated boiling and eliminating the cooking water to improve their taste or texture to make them palatable (Tardío, 2010). ...
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Despite the increasing scientific and public interest in wild food plants, their traditional knowledge is undergoing a deep cultural erosion process at a global scale. The paper assesses past and present use of wild food plants in Sierra Norte de Madrid (Spain) in order to understand which are the main drivers of its evolution. We interviewed 132 informants and analyzed the cultural importance and present use of the following: (1) the human food use-category compared with all the other use-subcategories, (2) the food plant species, and (3) the human food use-subcategories (e.g., vegetables, fruits, condiments, or beverages). The useful wild flora included 252 plant species, of which 74 were traditionally used as human food, which is the most culturally important use-category. The most important species were three vegetables consumed cooked ( Scolymus hispanicus, Bryonia dioica , and Silene vulgaris ), other two greens that were eaten raw ( Rumex papillaris and Montia fontana ), a condiment ( Thymus zygis ), and a fruit ( Rubus ulmifolius ). Among food use-categories, vegetables was the category with a higher cultural importance index, but beverages and condiments had the lowest cultural erosion rate. We found several drivers of change in the use of wild food plants, some enhancing the trend of abandonment that affects differently certain uses and species, and others encouraging their maintenance. Factors that may explain the general erosion trend are linked to the abandonment of traditional agricultural practices and shepherding: (1) the decrease in the abundance and quality of wild food plants; (2) wild food plants are no longer necessary for subsistence; (3) the reduction of time spent in the countryside; and (4) the negative connotations of some species that are considered famine food. On the other hand, there are several motivations for gathering and using wild food plants: (1) gathering is seen as a leisure and community building activity; (2) the intense flavor of wild plants, which cannot be substituted by cultivated or commercial ones; (3) positive values associated with some species consumed as everyday food that are now considered delicatessen; and (4) the medicinal role of food, mainly food uses closer to medicine such as beverages and condiments.
... Mediterranean wild vegetables are important sources of nutrients [5,6] and bioactive compounds [7][8][9][10][11], which are totally preserved when they are consumed in the fresh form. However, as with cultivated green vegetables [12][13][14][15], some species must be consumed after culinary treatments with different cooking techniques, such as boiling, frying, mixing with other ingredients in stews or other elaborations [16,17], as in the case of Rumex pulcher L., Silene vulgaris (Moench) Garcke. leaves, and Asparagus acutifolius L., Brionya dioica Jacq., Humulus lupulus L., Tamus communis L. young shoots, which could have an important effect on their nutritional composition. ...
... In southern France they are often eaten raw with dressing, whereas in Croatia most wild greens are boiled for a long time (usually nearly half an hour) and then dressed with olive oil. While in Spain the traditional cooking techniques were boiling and frying processes, with or without other ingredients, as previously stated by Tardio et al. [16,17]. ...
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Studies are scarce on the nutritional and phytochemical composition of wild edible Mediterranean plants after culinary processing. This work provides the nutritional composition after culinary treatment (including dietary fiber and mineral composition) and bioactive compounds (folates, vitamin C and organic acids) of wild Rumex pulcher L., Silene vulgaris (Moench) Garcke. leaves, and wild Asparagus acutifolius L., Bryonia dioica Jacq., Humulus lupulus L., Tamus communis L. young shoots. Shoots better preserved their nutrients than leaves, due to their different tissue structure. Fresh and cooked wild greens present high dietary fiber values, and remained at remarkable levels after boiling. Na, K, Mg and Zn were lost in about 50% due to culinary processing, while Ca, Cu, Fe and Mn were more stable. Boiled leaves of S. vulgaris remained as a good Mn source. A portion of 100 g of most of the cooked analyzed species could cover a relevant percentage of the daily requirement of folates (R. pulcher and A. acutifolius providing more than 80%) and vitamin C (T. communis and A. acutifolius providing more than 35%).
... Wild edible plants have been used as a spice, vegetable or foodstuff, and several ethnobotanical studies underlined that wild vegetables constitute of wild food plants widely harvested and consume in the Mediterranean countries [1,2,3]. In many countries rural people traditionally consume wide range of leafy vegetables and several studies argue that wild edible plant conserve important nutrient and non-nutrient elements comparing to the cultivated species [4,5], such as contain more vitamin C and pro-vitamin A. Furthermore, many neglected and underutilized species require less care are not affected by pesticide, well adapted to low input agriculture compared to the cultivated vegetables [6,7]. ...
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The objective of the present work was to evaluate variability for dry matter, protein and mineral N (nitrogen), P (phosphorus), K (potassium), Ca (calcium), Mg (magnesium) composition of nutritionally important and widely consumed wild edible plants in Aegean region of Turkey, and to assess their mineral diversity using multivariate analysis. The plant material comprises 17 edible plants collected from native found, the data were subject to analysis of variance, and a Pearson correlation test used to determine the correlations between dry matter, protein content and N, P, K, Ca, Mg composition. Principal component analysis was performed on the result of examine compositions and the factor loadings, eigenvalues and percentage of cumulative variance were calculated, the patterns of relationships among nutritive element were shown three-dimension scatter plot. Multivariate analysis revealed considerable variation for the most of concentration and explained 81.49% of total variation accounted for three PC axes. The data reveal that selected wild plant provide significant nutrition and exhibited great variability among the species. Although soil mineral concentration, availability, fertilization and environment may have influenced on nutrient accumulation in plant tissue, genetic variability is considerable influenced on mineral composition of plant.
... The use of Capsella bursa-pastoris in the raw salad is close to using it like children's snacks in Poland [39] and Spain [40,41], and in the Adriatic area it is also used cooked in "divlje zelje" mixture [37]. ...
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State boundaries limit human contacts in a homogenous context of a landscape and its natural features, including plants. After nine centuries of separation, finally the two territories in Slovenia share the same political history. In this paper we tried to answer the question to which extent the past political borders, geographical and cultural drivers affect today’s traditional knowledge on wild plants use of Slovenians, living unified in the same political entity. Data were collected using 60 in-depth semi-structured interviews, from March to August 2019, in two municipalities: Komen at Karst and Izola in Istria concerning food, medicinal, economic use, and local customs. The results indicate a quite large divergence in ethnobotanical and ecological knowledge between the two studied areas. In the Komen area, many people still use wild plants daily for various purposes (Taraxacum officinale, Melissa officinalis, Urtica dioica, Cornus mas, and Sambucus nigra). In contrast, this is limited to fewer people in the Izola area and mainly to seasonal use of specific plants (Asparagus acutifolius, Rosa canina, Salvia officinalis, Foeniculum vulgare and Rubus caesius). Unusual for the Mediterranean is the use of young shoots of Clematis vitalba, in the Izola area prepared as omelettes. We can assume that these differences are partly due to minor differences in climatic conditions and partly due to the influence of different cultures and cuisines. In the first place, the impact of Austro-Hungarian eating habits and cuisine can be seen on the area around Komen. Moreover, temporal “layers of knowledge” across the time scale are additionally mixed by the immigration of people from other parts of Slovenia or abroad, or with the influence of local herbal specialists. At last, we conclude Komen area knowledge is alive and homogeneous, and more connected to their local identity.
... Will edible plants consider native and naturalized species (including weeds and ruderal plants), as well as domesticated species that scape cultivation and can grow without human interaction (Cordero et al. 2020). Generally wild edible plants in urban areas are alien species (Díaz-Betancourt et al. 1999, Ladio & Rapoport 2002, Tardío 2010, Turner et al. 2011) that show tolerance to the stressful conditions imposed by urban environments. ...
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Background: Wild edible plants are species that are not cultivated but can be consumed as food. These plants may exhibit the highest taxonomic and phylogenetic diversity within urban floras, since they have a longer history of use associated with humans than non-edible plants. Also, because biodiversity is strongly associated with biomass, edible plants plant might show higher productivity (biomass per site) than non-edible plants. Questions: Is taxonomic and phylogenetic diversity of wild edible plants higher than non-edibles within urban areas? Is the alpha-biodiversity of wild edible plants positively related to biomass productivity in urban areas? Study sites and years of study: Cities of the coastal Mediterranean-type ecosystem, central Chile, 2015 and 2016. Methods: We characterized the taxonomic and phylogenetic diversity of urban flora differentiating wild edible and non-edible plants. Then, we assessed whether alpha-diversity of assemblages is related to their biomass productivity. Results: Both taxonomic and phylogenetic diversity were higher for edibles than non-edible plants. For edible plants, biomass was positively related to species richness and negatively with the mean phylogenetic diversity (MPD, a measure of evolutionary relationship among plants within an assemblage). Conclusions: Species richness is a suitable proxy to estimate wild edible plant diversity and their biomass in cities surpassing other proxies, such as phylogenetic diversity. Negative effect of MPD on biomass suggests that only a subgroup of related plants, possibly highly adapted to urban conditions, contribute to edible plant production. The distinction between wild edible and non-edible plants offers a better understanding of the assembly rules and biodiversity-biomass relationship within urban floras.
... It is very abundant on the rich pastures and meadows and reported as a fodder herb and medicinal plant, leaves and flowers are used in the kitchen, children use it for different games, and it is also a weed in gardens. Wherever this cosmopolitan weed grows [83], it is well known and cited as medicinal and edible plant in ethnobotanical surveys, e.g., in the Indian Himalaya [84], Georgia/Caucasus [85], Spain [86], Cameroon [87], South Africa [88], Mexico [78], USA [89 for native North Americans]. In a Swiss study, where school children were invited to highlight plants and animals on their way to school, the dandelion was the most often chosen species [90, p. 667]. ...
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Background Local plant knowledge typically is unevenly distributed within a community. This knowledge variation is important in understanding people’s relationship with their environment. Here we ask about knowledge variation among farmers’ families in the Napf region of Switzerland. Methods In 2008 and 2009, 60 adults and children living on 14 farms were interviewed about known and used plant species, and the data analyzed for knowledge variation. The farms were chosen by random stratified sampling, and freelisting and semi-structured interviews were conducted individually in the local idiom. The data were organized in an access database and analyzed with descriptive statistics, correlations, Mann–Whitney U tests and cultural domain analysis. Results Totally, 456 folk taxa were listed, whereas frequently listed species are common meadow and forest species. Uses were indicated for 391 taxa, most of them culinary, followed by fodder, wood, medicinal and ornamental uses. Local plant knowledge correlates with age and gender. Due to professional specialization, adults above 20 years have broader plant knowledge than children and adolescents. This is true for almost all examined habitat and plant use categories except for toy uses. Women and men share a common body of plant knowledge especially about herbaceous grassland species and woody species. Specialized knowledge of men is linked to cattle fodder and the processing of wood, specialized knowledge of women concerns edible, medicinal and ornamental plants, often garden species, but also herbaceous forest species. Conclusion In a rural region like the Napf, people retain a solid basis of plant knowledge. The variation of plant knowledge within farmers’ families of this region reflects sociocultural patterns. As these patterns are changing and as (agro)biodiversity is declining, local plant knowledge in the Napf region is suspected to undergo a mainstreaming process.
... Despite the gradual abandonment of traditional practices, pressures of changing markets, and changes in lifestyle, in many areas of Europe there has been a recent resurgence in interest in, and harvest and use of, WEPsparticularly in urban areas (Tardío, 2010). Health food shops in Spain, Poland, Italy, Estonia, and France offer products made, or enriched with, wild herbaceous plants, for example Cichorium intybus based coffee, Taraxacum spp. ...
Ethnopharmacological relevance: Wild foods constitute an essential component of people's diets around the world, but despite their widespread use and their cultural importance, wild edible plants (WEPs) lack recognition as significant contributors to the human diet in developed countries. Materials and methods: We stimulate national and international bodies dealing with food and agriculture , to increase their attention and investments on WEPs, leveraging the results of scientific investigation , enhancing the link between in situ conservation strategies and sustainable use of plant genetic diversity. Results and conclusions: WEPs should be reconsidered throughout their value chain, capturing their important socio-cultural, health, and economic benefits to indigenous and local communities and family farmers who are engaged in their production and wild-harvesting.
... Since natural landscapes are fragmented or reduced in urban areas, wild plants are only available to be gathered from a few types of environments, mainly anthropogenic disturbed sites, such as vacant lots, pathways, planting strips, railroad tracks, and streets (Díaz-Betancourt et al. 1999, Tardío 2010, Turner et al. 2011, McLain et al. 2014. Conversely, in rural areas natural environments are often well preserved and tend to contain a greater diversity of vegetation, facilitating the gathering of wild plants, a common practice maintained over time by local populations (Bortolotto et al. 2015, Kujawska & Luczaj 2015. ...
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Background: The use of wild plants depends on a number of sociocultural and ecological factors, such as the ease of access to natural environments. This limitation for urban inhabitants leads to differences in the knowledge and use of wild plants compared to rural inhabitants. Hypothesis: Rural and urban populations tend to share a similar knowledge of plants and use similar plants species when easy access to natural landscapes is available. Study site and years of study: Rural and urban area of Curarrehue, La Araucanía region (southern Chile), 2017. Methods: The use patterns of wild edible plants (WEPs) and wild medicinal plants (WMPs) were compared between the rural and urban population of Curarrehue. We evaluated the number of WEPs and WMPs gathered, their richness and diversity, the most important gathering environments and the way in which knowledge was acquired. Results: No differences were observed in the use of wild plants between the populations, except for the richness of WMPs. The WEPs were gathered mainly from the forest by both populations, and in the case of the WMPs, from forest and disturbed areas. The knowledge was acquired mainly through relatives by gathering plants from forest areas. Conclusions: Access to natural environments is key to preserving traditional practices and contributes to reducing gaps in the knowledge and use of wild plants between local rural and urban populations.
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Morocco has a large number of edible weeds, but seventeen are mostly eaten by the population, collected for sale in different provinces, or even exported. Eight weeds have edible shoots while the others have edible stems, fruits, roots, flowers, or petioles. Thirteen weed species are marketed either seasonally or throughout the year and generate money for the people. Morocco's tassel grapehyacinth bulbs and products extracted from pennyroyal mint are exported. Further research should focus on the nutritive value of these weeds and their economic role in the country.
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Nutritional (ascorbic acid, dehydroascorbic acid and carotenes); antinutritional and toxic components (oxalic acid, nitrate and erucic acid) were determined in sixteen popular species of wild edible plants which are collected for human consumption in southeast Spain. Ascorbic + dehydroascorbic acids contents were very high in several species, especially in Chenopodium album L. (155 mg/100 g). Carotenoid content ranged from 4.2 mg/100 g (Stel-laria media Villars) to 15.4 mg/100 g (Amaranthus viridis L.). A range of values was found for oxalic acid from absence to 1100 mg/100 g of plant material. Nitrate contents ranged from 47 mg/100 g (Salicornia europaea L.) to 597 mg/100 g (Amaranthus viridis L.). Low amounts of erucic acid were found in the Cruciferae family (Sisymbrium irio L. 1.73%; Cardaria draba L. 1.23%) and Plantago major L. 3.45%.
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Weeds abound in urban and agricultural environments. Depending on region and site, up to 66% of weed species are edible, and may constitute an additional food source for humans. Based on 400 samples, 1/4 m2 each, collected in tropical areas (e.g., roadsides, urban vacant lots, streets, sugar cane and coffee plantations in Coatepec, Mexico), average figures of edible fresh biomass vary between 1277 and 3582 kg/ha. A similar survey performed in a temperate area (739 samples in Bariloche, Argentina) showed mean values between 287 and 2939 kg/ha. A total of 43 species were sampled in Coatepec and 32 species in Bariloche. The general means were 2.1 and 1.3 tons/ha, respectively. At a greater geographic scale, a comparison between Mexican and Argentine weeds shows that, proportionately, the food parts vary a little between regions. In general, from higher to lower, the order of uses goes from leaves, seeds, roots, fruits, herbals, flowers and condiments. Edible roots (including bulbs and rhizomes) appear to be more common among perennials than among annuals.
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In many developing countries the food and nutrition security situation is worsening due to climatic and socioeconomic conditions. This article discusses the sociocultural factors associated with the consumption of traditional vegetables among the Luo of western Kenya. Through semi-tructured interviews with key informants and market surveillance, data were collected on vegetable identification, availability and procurement, preparation, perceptions and practices as well as availability and pricing at local markets. Altogether 72 different edible vegetables were identified, most of which were growing wild. While some traditional vegetables are still consumed, many of them are used more and more rarely, except for the lean days when no alternatives are available. Traditional vegetables and other wild food items constitute an under-utilized resource when it comes to food and nutrition security in vulnerable communities. However, cultural and social factors need to be taken into consideration and anthropological studies can play an important role in that endeavor.