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Changes in the utilization of wild green vegetables in Poland since the 19th century: A comparison of four ethnobotanical surveys

Łuczaj, Łukasz
Journal of ethnopharmacology 2010 v.128 no.2 pp. 395-404
wild foods, green leafy vegetables, ethnobotany, wild plants, questionnaires, temporal variation, history, shoots, leaves, herbs, diet, vegetable crops, Poland
Aims of study: The aim of this paper is to compare the presence of wild green vegetables in four ethnobotanical questionnaires. This range of surveys offers a rich diachronic perspective, possibly unique in ethnobotany. Materials and methods: Four archival questionnaires (by other researchers), whose results have been only partly published, were analyzed. They are Rostafiński's questionnaire of 1883-1909, the Gajek team's questionnaires of 1948-1949 and 1964-1969, and Stoličná and Kłodnicki's questionnaire of 2000-2003. Results: Green shoots or leaves of least 58 species (belonging to 43 genera) of wild plants have been used as green vegetables or culinary herbs for nutritional purposes since the 19th century. The disappearance of wild green vegetables from the Polish diet was a gradual process, in which the sequence of disappearance of the species from diet was as follows: (1) Aegopodium & Heracleum, (2) Cirsium, Sinapis & Raphanus, (3) Urtica, (4) Chenopodium, (5) Oxalis, (6) Rumex. In Poland, within the studied time scale, there was no tradition of incorporating more than a few species of wild greens in one dish. Local people usually utilized a small number of taxa, but in large quantities, resorting to some other available species only in times of famine. Conclusions: The relatively low number of wild green vegetables utilized has gradually decreased to practically none, mainly due to replacement by a few cultivated vegetables. This process must have started well before the 19th century, but became most dramatic throughout the 20th century.