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We'd like to understand how you use our websites in order to improve them. Register your interest. Dalmatia is an interesting place to study the use of wild greens as it lies at the intersection of influence of Slavs, who do not usually use many species of wild greens, and Mediterranean culinary culture, where the use of multiple wild greens is common.

The aim of the study was to document the mixtures of wild green vegetables which are sold in all the vegetable markets of Dalmatia. All vendors 68 in all 11 major markets of the Dalmatian coast were interviewed. The piles of wild vegetables they sold were searched and herbarium specimens taken from them.

The mean number of species in the mix was 5. The most commonly sold wild plants are: Sonchus oleraceus L. Schmidt, Papaver rhoeas L. Also the cultivated beet Beta vulgaris L. Wild vegetables from the mix are usually boiled for 20—30 minutes and dressed with olive oil and salt. Altogether at least 37 wild taxa and 13 cultivated taxa were recorded. Apart from the mixes, Asparagus acutifolius L. The rich tradition of eating many wild greens may result both from strong Venetian and Greek influences and the necessity of using all food resources available in the barren, infertile land in the past.

Although the number of wild-collected green vegetables is impressive we hypothesize that it may have decreased over the years, and that further in-depth local ethnobotanical studies are needed in Dalmatia to record the disappearing knowledge of edible plants. The use of wild green vegetables leaves, buds, stalks etc. Although this culinary tradition has decreased due to economic changes in nutrition and agriculture, the contemporary use at least by older people of many species of wild greens has been documented in Italy [ 3 — 11 ], Iberian Peninsula [ 12 — 17 ] but not among the Basque people [ 18 ] , Greece [ 19 — 21 ], Turkey e.

The phenomenon of the wide use of wild leafy vegetables in nutrition was named herbophilia [ 24 ]. In northern Europe a much smaller number of species of wild greens was used and they were associated mainly with famine. This attitude was named herbophobia. It is however unclear how old this division of attitudes towards wild greens is, as, for example in Poland, the use of wild greens has undergone substantial changes i.

Generally however, peasants from Slavic countries used to resort to just a few of the commonest wild greens, ignoring other species. Exceptions to this are some regions inhabited by southern Slavs, i. Newer and newer works are published on the ethnobotany of this area, e. Although there are also some studies about Croatia [ 39 — 41 ] and about the ancient Croatian diaspora in Italy [ 42 ], this country, one of the largest and most diverse in the region, seems to be the most neglected one.

There are a few publications on the use of wild food plants in Croatia. Although they belong to popular science literature he inserted many valuable observations on the use of particular species in Croatia, particularly in Dalmatia, often quoting concrete sub-regions or islands where a plant is used.

This work is based on an impressive number of questionnaires, and lists not only the food use of plants but also land and marine animals. Unfortunately only a list of the most commonly used organisms is included.

As the first part of documentation of the use of wild food plants we aimed at cataloguing wild food vegetables sold in these markets. Market research is a commonly applied approach in ethnobotany [ 46 ], also for studying the use of wild green vegetables e. Plants sold in markets are usually those with highest cultural value. People can easily be approached and interviewed.

Our objective was to record the commonest wild food species of plants sold in vegetable markets in the form of mixes, their names, modes of preparations and origins. The results will be utilized in the future to compare them with local in-depth studies in chosen villages. As Dalmatia outside the tourist season is sparsely populated, vegetable markets are concentrated on the mainland coast, whereas in the islands only single wild vegetable vendors can be approached.

Early spring the second half of March , during the blooming of fruit trees and the appearance of asparagus shoots, was chosen as the time of study as this is, according to our preliminary information from the inhabitants of Dalmatia, the top season for selling wild vegetables in the markets. Possibly all the vegetable markets of the Dalmatian part of Adriatic coast were visited. All the 68 sellers of wild vegetable mixes were interviewed. Oral prior informed consent was acquired.

The sellers allowed us to search through the piles of plants they sold. The amount of information they supplied varied some female informants refused to give us their age. The interviews were performed in the Croatian standard of the Serbo-Croatian language often classified as a separate Croatian language. The piles of vegetables were photographed. During each interview we asked which species were collected from the wild and which were cultivated, paying particular attention to Beta , Allium and Brassicaceae species, which could have been of wild or of cultivated origin.

In the case of the specimens without flowers, we tried to identify them using vegetative parts sold and folk names. The average age of sellers is 63, median - Some of them are farmers and have been selling plants in the market since their childhood, others only after retirement. Nine men were also encountered, mostly farmers but also one retired restaurant chef. Except for one, who collected the plants himself, it was their wives who collected the mix.

Most women sellers claimed that they collect the plants themselves, apart from three younger women who said that their older relatives do it for them. Nearly all the sellers were able to name every species found in the mix.

The sellers come to the market well before 7 am and stay until 11 am — 1 pm. It is commonly accepted that research involving many-year participant experiences of the researcher e. Wild vegetables are sold in all the vegetable markets of Dalmatia. Most sellers along with the mixes sell other plants, mainly home-grown vegetables, home-made olive oil and brandy. Most wild plants are sold in the form of a mix.

Only Asparagus acutifolius L. Occasionally a single Asteraceae species is sold separately, mainly Taraxacum sp. One seller of Papaver rhoeas L.

On average 5. The total list of plants consists of at least 50 taxa, of which 37 are collected from the wild. Most sellers come to the market regularly, at least once a week. They come from neighbouring villages. The composition is repeatable although often one to three of the commonest species are missing.

The most often used species are sow thistles Sonchus spp. Schmidt, this species only in the Dubrovnik area , bristly ox-tongue Picris echioides L. Two group taxa involving several botanical species should be pointed out. This category encompasses a large number of Asteraceae Cichorioideae species. These are predominantly Crepis spp. Roth, Cichorium intybus L. The respondents do not distinguish them well and usually cannot link the collected rosettes to the flowering forms.

The sellers claim that they collected the plants in their home gardens or their vicinity, near the sea or in manure-fertilized arable fields. The sellers state that the tradition of eating wild herbs has been alive as long as their grandparents remember. They are boiled for 10—30 minutes, strained and seasoned heavily with olive oil and salt e. In the past until the s the wild herbs were mixed with boiled potatoes, polenta or any other starchy products which were available.

Another change our interviewers noticed is that now people have stopped collecting edible roots, they collect only leaves and stalks.

Why was such a rich heritage of wild vegetable gathering preserved in Dalmatia and in Herzegovina and not in most other Slavic countries [ 25 , 57 ] or for example in the neighbouring Hungary [ 58 ]?

Two overlapping explanations are possible. One is that the high importance of wild vegetables is a remnant of the ancient Greek-Roman culture around the edge of the Mediterranean. Dalmatia was for a long time a part of the Roman Empire and the later Venetian state, and many towns were founded by the Greeks. Another explanation is ecological-economical.

Until the development of tourism, Dalmatia was the poorest part of former Yugoslavia — a rocky barren land where people had to eat wild produce to survive. The rocky dry hills were inhospitable to many cultivated vegetables, so people had to maintain knowledge of wild vegetables. The results of the study show that collecting and selling wild green vegetables is still widespread in Dalmatia. At least 37 species are still gathered. Such a large number of wild greens is similar to wild vegetable mixes from Italy e.

It should also be borne in mind that the list of taxa comes from a large area and on the scale of one market the number of taxa was much lower than in the previously mentioned Italian ethnobotanical studies. An interesting issue is presented by differences in preparation techniques for wild greens encountered in the Mediterranean. In Italy wild greens are usually eaten fried often with eggs , after the initial boiling, or made into a soup [ 3 — 6 , 59 , 60 ].

In southern France they are often eaten raw with dressing [ 61 ], whereas in Croatia most wild greens are boiled for a long time usually nearly half an hour and then dressed with olive oil although some Asteraceae are eaten raw and Asparagus and Tamus are usually fried with eggs. Such way of preparation is similar to the Greek way of preparing horta gr.

This way of preparing wild greens boiling for a long time and straining may be the most primitive way of preparing wild greens, an adaptation for eating large amounts of them, since most toxins are removed. Eating wild greens as raw salads in France may be the result of a general trend of serving raw salads in France, and frying is possible only when larger amounts of oil are available. The respondents mentioned a few times that they had noticed an increasing number of young health-oriented people vegetarians etc.

This goes along with a similar trend in other European countries [ 63 ]. Thus an interesting phenomenon may be developing. The gradual decrease in the knowledge of plants is counteracted by specialized sellers who are the main holders of knowledge and suppliers of the plants to increasing circles of people. More local in-depth studies are needed to assess the relationships of the plants sold in markets with the plants known and used by the whole population of Dalmatia.


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Wild vegetable mixes sold in the markets of Dalmatia (southern Croatia)


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