Wild food plants traditionally gathered in central Armenia: archaic ingredients or future sustainable foods?

Abstract

Current debate highlights that sustainable food systems can be fostered by the cautious and germane use of natural resources. Gathering, cooking, and consuming wild food plants that are widely available in a given environment are traditional practices that in many parts of the world have historically been crucial for effecting the food security and food sovereignty of local communities. In the current study, we analyzed the traditional foraging patterns of Armenians, Pontic Greeks, Molokans, and Yazidis living in a mountainous area of central Armenia; via 64 semi-structured interviews, 66 wild food folk taxa were recorded and identified. While Armenians and Greeks gather a remarkable number of wild food plants (36 and 31, respectively) and share approximately half of them, Molokans and, more remarkable, Yazidis gather less wild food plants (24 and 17, respectively) and share only a few plants with Armenians. This may be due not only to the fact that the latter ethno-religious groups have followed endogamic marriage patterns for centuries, which may have limited the exchange of plant knowledge and practices with their Armenian neighbors, but also to the difficult adaptation to a new environment that Yazidis experienced after moving from Eastern Anatolia and the Nineveh Plains to the study area around a century ago. The traditional practice of gathering wild plants for food is, however, still vividly alive among locals in central Armenia and at least a part of this bio-cultural heritage could represent one of the future pillars of local sustainable food systems and platforms.

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful to all the study participants who shared their plant knowledge with the field researchers; to the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MAECI), who financed the field study within its program for archeological and ethnological missions abroad (Grant Number 2019/368); and to the University of Gastronomic Sciences, Pollenzo, for having additionally contributed to the research funding.

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Correspondence to Andrea Pieroni.

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Pieroni, A., Hovsepyan, R., Manduzai, A.K. et al. Wild food plants traditionally gathered in central Armenia: archaic ingredients or future sustainable foods?. Environ Dev Sustain 23, 2358–2381 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10668-020-00678-1

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Keywords

  • Wild food plants
  • Foraging
  • Ethnobotany
  • Armenia
  • Caucasus