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Ethnobotany in the New Europe

Ethnobotany in the New Europe: People, Health and Wild Plant Resources

Manuel Pardo-de-Santayana
Andrea Pieroni
Rajindra K. Puri
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 408
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  • Book Info
    Ethnobotany in the New Europe
    Book Description:

    The study of European wild food plants and herbal medicines is an old discipline that has been invigorated by a new generation of researchers pursuing ethnobotanical studies in fresh contexts. Modern botanical and medical science itself was built on studies of Medieval Europeans' use of food plants and medicinal herbs. In spite of monumental changes introduced in the Age of Discovery and Mercantile Capitalism, some communities, often of immigrants in foreign lands, continue to hold on to old recipes and traditions, while others have adopted and enculturated exotic plants and remedies into their diets and pharmacopoeia in new and creative ways. Now in the 21st century, in the age of the European Union and Globalization, European folk botany is once again dynamically responding to changing cultural, economic, and political contexts. The authors and studies presented in this book reflect work being conducted across Europe's many regions. They tell the story of the on-going evolution of human-plant relations in one of the most bioculturally dynamic places on the planet, and explore new approaches that link the re-evaluation of plant-based cultural heritage with the conservation and use of biocultural diversity.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-814-0
    Subjects: Anthropology, Environmental Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. List of Appendices
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Chapter 1 The Ethnobotany of Europe, Past and Present
    (pp. 1-15)
    Manuel Pardo-de-Santayana, Andrea Pieroni and Rajindra K. Puri

    This book reports on an old and venerable discipline, the study of European wild food plants and herbal medicines, invigorated by a new generation of researchers pursuing modern ethnobotanical studies in new contexts. It offers new insights into the past and contemporary uses of wild plant resources, which despite decades in decline still play an important role for many rural communities. Recently, some of these wild plants and the practices associated with them have received renewed attention as symbols of local identities – or forms of intangible cultural heritage¹ – perceived to be under threat or as new resources for...

  7. Chapter 2 People and Plants in Lëpushë: Traditional Medicine, Local Foods and Post-communism in a Northern Albanian Village
    (pp. 16-50)
    Andrea Pieroni

    This is the story of a village and its surrounding alpine settlements in a very remote, mountainous area in upper Kelmend, northern Albania. This story tells of the people who have remained in this place since the fall of the communist regime in 1991, either because it was so special to them that they did not want to leave, or because they could not find the means to migrate, either legally or illegally, to the United States or Western Europe, as most of the other inhabitants of northern Albania have done. It also tells of how the villagers have managed...

  8. Chapter 3 The Cultural Significance of Wild-gathered Plant Species in Kartitsch (Eastern Tyrol, Austria) and the Influence of Socioeconomic Changes on Local Gathering Practices
    (pp. 51-75)
    Anja Christanell, Brigitte Vogl-Lukasser, Christian R. Vogl and Marianne Gütler

    Gathering of wild plant species is a typical and important activity in rural communities of the European Alps, so not surprisingly there are hundreds of books that focus on plant species to be gathered and their potential uses. Among these, books of alternative recipes featuring wild plant species and their products are especially popular, and there are seminars and courses offered in a variety of activities associated with harvesting and preparing wild plants. Despite all this attention, the gathering activities offarmersin European Alpine regions are rarely researched by scientists.

    In this chapter we report on one of a...

  9. Chapter 4 Local Innovations to Folk Medical Conditions: Two Major Phytotherapeutic Treatments from the Maltese Islands
    (pp. 76-92)
    Timothy J. Tabone

    Trade and travel have linked various parts of Europe for millennia, especially between the southern European countries, the Mediterranean islands and North Africa. Over the centuries biological and cultural exchanges have been an important part of this dynamic movement. Malta is one such location, and shows very startling cultural influences to folk medicine categories and treatments, marvellous adaptations to local flora, local innovations etc. In this chapter, the results of long-term ethnobotanical work in Malta are described, focusing on two phytotherapies that quite probably have their origins elsewhere, but demonstrate local adaptation through processes of plant substitution and unique mixtures....

  10. Chapter 5 Local Awareness of Scarcity and Endangerment of Medicinal Plants in Roussenski Lom Natural Park in Northern Bulgaria
    (pp. 93-111)
    Hugo J. de Boer

    The tradition of herbal remedies is deeply rooted in Bulgarian society – one of the oldest Bulgarian translations of Dioscorides’De Materia Medicadates to the fourteenth century – and still has a central role in Bulgarian daily life (Antonova 2007). A majority of people, young as well as old, know what herbs to use to cure or prevent common illnesses such as colds, fevers, coughs, stomach disorders, wounds etc. In fact, the use of alternative medicine or traditional medicine has been increasing in Bulgaria, as in many European countries today, and some suggest this is due to a growing...

  11. Chapter 6 ‘My Doctor Doesn’t Understand Why I Use Them’: Herbal and Food Medicines amongst the Bangladeshi Community in West Yorkshire, U.K.
    (pp. 112-146)
    Andrea Pieroni, Hadar Zaman, Shamila Ayub and Bren Torry

    There has been a slow but gradual shift in ethnobotanical research during the last twenty years, from exploring exotic places and rainforests to investigating back yards and urban environments. Critics of ethnobotany have seen this change as the reaction of ethnobotanists to the increasing difficulties in negotiating permissions with regional and national authorities of developing countries (especially Meso-American) for conducting classical bioprospecting-based research. However, there has been a move away from access to classical funding routes, which in turn has resulted in a change in research aims from a mere documentation of plant uses to more complex, hypothesis-driven research.


  12. Chapter 7 Persistence of Wild Food and Wild Medicinal Plant Knowledge in a Northeastern Region of Portugal
    (pp. 147-171)
    Ana Maria Carvalho and Ramón Morales

    People tend to be strongly dependent on the landscape and natural environment in which they live and work, especially in extreme environments (e.g., high altitude, desert areas) and regions with geographical and social isolation. Beginning as children, these people have learned how to discover and understand the signs of nature and to observe changes in the landscape. However, they have also shaped that landscape according to their own beliefs and material needs. This adaptive knowledge is often a practical one, based on empirical observation and long experience, and transmitted through oral traditions. Such knowledge is not merely of academic or...

  13. Chapter 8 The Use of Wild Edible Plants in the Graecanic Area in Calabria, Southern Italy
    (pp. 172-188)
    Sabine Nebel and Michael Heinrich

    Local knowledge regarding food use, the basis of many cultural traditions, is under pressure as dietary patterns change rapidly all over the world. Food exemplifies local knowledge or traditional ecological knowledge. It is a very basic need, but – provided people do not suffer from starvation – also a pleasant experience. Food and dishes always reflect a ‘vision of the world’ and consequently peoples, ethnic groups and communities are proud of their special dishes and the plants or breeds of animal they produce and use. Such knowledge gives them a local identity. While local food may well have its origin...

  14. Chapter 9 The Ecology and Use of Edible Thistles in Évora, Alentejo, Southeastern Portugal
    (pp. 189-210)
    Maria José Barão and Alexandra Soveral Dias

    The Alentejo region in South Portugal lies between the Tagus River and Algarve, representing about one third of the area and only five per cent of the population of Portugal. It is a semiarid region of undulating plains with a Mediterranean climate softened by the mild Atlantic sea breezes, with mild winters and hot, dry summers. With a long history of scarcity and poverty, it shows very particular cultural traits that made Feio (1983) call it ‘a country within a country’. Among its defining traits is a unique culinary tradition, generally considered a consequence of necessity, with a high use...

  15. Chapter 10 Spring is Coming: The Gathering and Consumption of Wild Vegetables in Spain
    (pp. 211-238)
    Javier Tardío

    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 find 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...

  16. Chapter 11 Plants as Symbols in Scotland Today
    (pp. 239-245)
    Veerle Van den Eynden

    The thistle is the plant that has come to symbolize Scotland and the Scottish identity, and there exist various theories as to why the thistle has become such a ubiquitous Scottish symbol (Mabey 1996: 455; Milliken and Bridgewater 2004: 143). Initially used as a personal emblem by the Stuart kings in the fifteenth century, the thistle has been a national emblem since the sixteenth century. Better known, however, is the legend that the thistle was adopted as a Scottish emblem after the cries of a tenth-century Norse invader, who had stepped on thistles, alerted the Scottish to an imminent attack....

  17. Chapter 12 The Botanical Identity and Cultural Significance of Lithuanian Jovaras: An Ethnobotanical Riddle
    (pp. 246-262)
    Daiva Šeškauskaitė and Bernd Gliwa

    In a Lithuanian folk song a riddle is asked:Kas nežydi vasarėlėj?(What does not blossom in summertime?). It is answered:Jaunas berneli, Kas aš do būčiau, Kad aš to nežinočiau? Dievo medelis, Žals jovarėlis – tas nežyd vasarėlėj(Young lad, who would I be if I would not know the answer? The God tree, greenjovaras, does not blossom in summertime) (Juška 1954c). The riddle raises an interesting question, what is a god tree? And why should anyone care that a tree does not blossom in the summer? In trying to answer this, it seems obvious that we must...

  18. Chapter 13 Norway’s Rosmarin (Rhododendron tomentosum) in Past and Present Tradition
    (pp. 263-281)
    Torbjørn Alm and Marianne Iversen

    This chapter reviews the uses ofRhododendron tomentosum(Stokes) Harmaja in Norway, with particular emphasis on North Sami material. By comparing past tradition and present use, it will also assess the extent to which former traditions related to this (and by inference, probably many other species) still survive in living practice or at least in living memory in Norway.

    Like many other plant species and materials,R. tomentosumhas been traded by pharmacies in Norway; it was listed in thePharmacopoea Danica, also valid in Norway, in 1772 (Anonymous 1772) but not in the first Norwegian version (Pharmacopoea Norvegica, Anonymous...

  19. Chapter 14 Chamomiles in Spain: The Dynamics of Plant Nomenclature
    (pp. 282-306)
    Manuel Pardo-de-Santayana and Ramón Morales

    Historically, the folk botanical category known asmanzanillaorcamomilain the languages spoken in Spain referred only toMatricaria recutitaand a few very similar species. In a rather exceptional example of dynamic consolidation in European ethnobotanical knowledge, this category has grown to include more than sixty similar species (Casermeiro et al. 1995; Álvarez 2006). These include some of the most popular digestive Spanish beverages (e.g.,Matricaria recutita,Matricaria aureaandChamaemelum nobile), their substitutes (e.g.,Helichrysum stoechas,Santolina chamaecyparissus) and adulterants (e.g.,Tanacetum parthenium,Anacyclus clavatus). They are all used in a similar way, as digestive herbal teas,...

  20. Chapter 15 A Preliminary Study of the Plant Knowledge and Grassland Management Practices of English Livestock Farmers, with Implications for Grassland Conservation
    (pp. 307-328)
    Jenny L. McCune

    The importance of recognizing local knowledge (LK) in conservation and development projects in less-developed countries is widely acknowledged. LK is considered distinct from scientific knowledge (SK). It is gained by the long experience of a group of people living in and interacting with a specific local environment, and is embedded within a cultural context (McClure 1989; van Dusseldorp and Box 1993; Clark and Murdoch 1997; Purcell 1998; Ellen and Harris 2000). Techniques like ‘participatory rural appraisal’ (PRA) have been developed in order to collect and apply LK (Chambers 1994), but these efforts are confined almost exclusively to less-developed countries. There...

  21. Chapter 16 A Comparative Study of Rural and Urban Allotments in Gravesham, Kent, U.K.
    (pp. 329-358)
    Christine Wildhaber

    Homegardens (also called household, kitchen and ‘dooryard’ gardens) occur worldwide and can be defined as a ‘supplementary food production system which is under the management and control of household members’ (Cleveland and Soleri 1987: 259). The primary function of homegardens is generally food production (Fernandes and Nair 1986), although tropical homegardens typically include a variety of plants used for other purposes such as medicine, fodder, firewood, construction materials, market products and ornamentals (Lamont, Hardy Eshbaugh and Greenberg 1999).

    Vogl, Vogl-Lukasser and Puri (2004: 287) state that the defining criterion of homegardens is that they are ‘adjacent to the house where...

  22. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 359-362)
  23. Index
    (pp. 363-394)