J Ethnopharmacol 2014 20;151(1):624-34. Epub 2013 Nov 20.
Division of Pharmaceutical Biology, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Basel, Klingelbergstrasse 50, CH-4056 Basel, Switzerland. Electronic address:
Ethnopharmacological Relevance: Swiss Alps have an ancestral tradition with regard to the use of wild plants as medicines and food. However, this knowledge is falling into oblivion, and is nowadays confined to village areas. Aim of the study was to identify wild edible plants used today and during the last two centuries by the alpine population of Valais (Switzerland).
Material And Methods: Data were collected by means of semi-directed interviews made in four different lateral valleys of Valais (Val d'Anniviers, Val d'Entremont, Val d'Hérens, and Val d'Illiez). Wild food plants were classified according to their uses (salads, cooked vegetables, spices, raw snacks, teas, alcoholic drinks, sirups, and jams). Books and reports written in the XIXth century were consulted to identify uses of wild plants which have fallen in oblivion meanwhile.
Results: A total of 98 edible wild plants, distributed into 38 botanical families, were identified during the interviews. Several plants were highly cited (e.g. Taraxacum officinale, Chenopodium bonus-henricus). The most frequent usage was as tea (18%), followed by uses as cooked vegetables (16%), jams (16%), and raw snacks (16%). A strong association was observed between food and medicinal uses of plants. Wild food plants were of critical importance in times of food scarcity. Meanwhile, they have lost their relevance as vital components of the diet and are nowadays rather perceived and appreciated as delicacies.
Conclusions: This study provides for the first time comprehensive data on present day and historical uses of wild plants as food in Lower and Central Valais. Besides being of historical interest, this ethnobotanical information can be used to identify species which may provide interesting opportunities for diversification of mountain agriculture.