The hidden Mediterranean diet: wild vegetables traditionally gathered and consumed in the Gargano area, Apulia, SE Italy

Nello Biscotti, Andrea Pieroni


Despite the extensive bio-scientific literature concerning the Mediterranean diet, which emerged in the last three decades, systematic ethnography-centered investigations on a crucial portion of this food system, linked to the traditional consumption of non-cultivated vegetables, are still largely lacking in many areas of the Mediterranean Basin.

In this research, an ethnobotanical field study focusing on wild vegetables traditionally gathered and consumed locally, was conducted in a few centers and villages located in the Gargano area, northern Apulia, SE Italy, by interviewing twenty-five elderly informants. The folk culinary uses of seventy-nine botanical taxa of wild vascular plants, belonging to nineteen families, were recorded, thus showing a remarkable resilience of traditional environmental knowledge (TEK) related to wild food plants. In particular, approximately one-fourth of the recorded wild vegetables are still very commonly gathered and consumed nowadays, while ten taxa have never been reported in previous ethnobotanical studies conducted in Southern Italy. These findings demonstrate the crucial cultural role played by folk cuisines in preserving TEK, despite significant socio-economic changes that have affected the study area during the past four decades.


ethnobotany; wild food plants; Apulia; Mediterranean diet; Italy

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