Wild Food Plants Traditionally Consumed in Bologna, Italy


Wild food plants traditionally consumed in the area of Bologna (Emilia Romagna region, Italy)

Sansanelli S, Tassoni A
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2014 Sep 25;10:69
PubMed Central PMC4189172

Investigators at the University of Bologna recorded the local knowledge concerning traditional uses of wild food plants and related practices, such as gathering, processing, cooking, therapeutic uses, with the aim of preserving an important part of the local cultural heritage of the province of the city of Bologna in the Emilia-Romagna region of Northern Italy.

From the background:

“Before the so-called economic boom (1950–1970), Italy was mainly an agriculture-based economy and society. Poverty, dryness and wars made it difficult to meet subsistence needs and, therefore, edible wild plants represented an alternative food source or sometimes the only one. Wild food plant gathering practices and their way of consumption were slowly integrated into the customs of a territory, becoming part of the Traditional Local Knowledge (TLK). The process of industrialization and urbanization changed the way of living and society, which became less and less rural. The use of mechanized agriculture and the development of transport improved the availability of vegetables and, consequently, wild food plant practices and the related local knowledge, strongly connected with rural societies, almost totally disappeared. Furthermore, intensive agriculture, which generally involved extensive use of pesticides, and pollution largely impaired wild flora biodiversity, reducing the availability of some wild plants used as food in the past….

Wild food plants are generally characterized by high nutritional and low energy values. In comparison to the corresponding cultivated species, wild food plants have a higher fibre content, are rich in antioxidants and flavonoids and contain very low amounts of lipids. Many were proven to have important beneficial effects in preventing several chronic diseases of modern society, such as age-related and heart pathologies, diabetes and some types of cancer.”

Taraxacum officinale
Taraxacum officinale (source: Wikimedia Commons, Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen)

The team documented 66 wild food plants, including greens (leafy plants eaten as vegetables), fruits and semi-wild plants, such as Crepis vesicaria and Taraxacum officinale, and 11 plants indicated as having therapeutic effects: (T. officinale, C. vesicaria, Lippia citriodora, Salvia pratensis, Mentha spp., Rosmarinus officinalis, Crataegus monogyna, Urtica spp., Sonchus spp., Crepis sancta, and Sambucus nigra).

In their conclusion, the authors note the potential nutritional and economic benefits of an increasing interest in wild edibles:

“In the era of large-scale distribution, which has generally led to a decrease in food quality, the interest in wild edibles is increasingly gaining media attention. In Italy and in many other European countries, it is possible to find guide books, workshops, and new culinary vogues associated with wild edible plants. A great impulse to this increased interest has also been given by the gastronomy elite, always in search for new stimuli, culinary experiences and healthy food, but also by agritourism farms and local rural restaurants desirous to put dishes of the traditional culinary heritage on their menus. Our contribution in preserving local knowledge and traditions will hopefully reinforce this new growing trend to become a habit, so as to enrich the local diet with new ‘old traditional’ foods beneficial for human health.”

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

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