Events Calendar
Oct 9
17:00 - 18:00
Annual Distinguished Ethnobotanist Lecture 2018

I will present a history of the discovery of new species of wild edible plants and ask the question – what else can we find in this domain? In my lecture I will use the flora of Poland and some other European countries as examples. The edibility of plants has been discussed in old herbals and economic handbooks since the origins of written language. Inventories of wild edible plants were often created in the hope of alleviating famine and finding new sources of food. Nineteenth and early 20th century ethnography documented the use of wild foods in order to preserve traditions, but the memory of famine always lingered in these sources. Here I will discuss at length some of the more interesting wild food used in central Europe in the past – e.g. sweet manna grass (Glyceria fluitans), hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium), marsh woundwort (Stachys palustris) and water caltrop (Trapa natans). Another source of knowledge of potentially edible species is archaeobotany. Recently, some experimentation has been made by fans of foraging and haute-cuisine chefs playing with recipes. Nowadays, we describe the use of wild foods in ethnobotanical works in order to preserve traditional knowledge, improve rural livelihoods and to find species matching the local terroir, as it appears that most potentially edible plants in Europe are known.


Jodrell Lecture Theatre,
Kew Gardens,
United Kingdom


Open to all,


Contact: Dr Rajindra Puri
School of Anthropology and Conservation


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