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The wild taxa utilized as vegetables in Sicily (Italy): A traditional component of the Mediterranean diet

  • Autori: Geraci, Anna; Amato, Filippo; Di Noto, Giuseppe; Bazan, Giuseppe*; Schicchi, Rosario
  • Anno di pubblicazione: 2018
  • Tipologia: Articolo in rivista (Articolo in rivista)
  • OA Link:


Background: Wild vegetables in the Mediterranean Basin are still often consumed as a part of the diet and, in particular, there is a great tradition regarding their use in Sicily. In this study, an ethnobotanical field investigation was carried out to (a) identify the wild native taxa traditionally gathered and consumed as vegetables in Sicily, comparing the collected ethnobotanical data with those of other countries that have nominated the Mediterranean diet for inclusion in the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and (b) highlight new culinary uses of these plants. Methods: Interviews were carried out in 187 towns and villages in Sicily between 2005 and 2015. A total of 980 people over the age of 50 were interviewed (mainly farmers, shepherds, and experts on local traditions). Plants recorded were usually collected in collaboration with the informants to confirm the correct identification of the plants. The frequencies of citation were calculated. Results: Two hundred fifty-three taxa (specific and intraspecific) belonging to 39 families, and 128 genera were recorded (26 were cited for the first time). The most represented families were Asteraceae, Brassicaceae, Apiaceae, Amaryllidaceae, Malvaceae, and Polygonaceae. Only 14 taxa were cited by 75% of the people interviewed. The aerial parts of wild plants, including leaves, tender shoots, and basal rosettes, are the main portions collected, while the subterranean parts are used to a lesser extent. For some vegetables, more parts are utilized. Most of the reported vegetables are consumed cooked. In addition to the widely known vegetables (Borago officinalis, Beta spp., Cichorium spp., Brassica spp., Carduus spp., etc.), the so-called ancient vegetables are included (Onopordum illyricum, Centaurea calcitrapa, Nasturtium officinale, Scolymus spp., Smyrnium rotundifolium), and some unique uses were described. Comparing the Sicilian findings to those from other countries, a very high number of vegetable taxa were detected, 72 of which are eaten only in Sicily, while 12 are consumed in all the Mediterranean countries examined. Conclusions: The research shows a high level of Sicilian knowledge about using wild plants as a traditional food source. Wild vegetables are healthy and authentic ingredients for local and ancient recipes, which are fundamental to the revitalization of quality food strictly connected to traditional agroecosystems.