Date: 18 Sep 2014
An ethnobotanical study among Albanians and Aromanians living in the Rraicë and Mokra areas of Eastern Albania
Ethnobotanical research in South-Eastern Europe is crucial for providing the baseline data needed for both implementing community-based management of the local natural resources and (further) developing small-scale markets of local herbal and food products. An ethnobotanical study was carried out among (Muslim) Albanians and (Christian Orthodox) Aromanians living in the Rraicë and Mokra areas of Eastern Albania. The survey was conducted by interviewing 36 local, elderly individuals from five villages regarding the traditional uses of wild food plants, medicinal foods, and home-made medical remedies devoted to both humans and animals. Thirty-six plant taxa were found to comprise the local wild food cuisine as well as the cuisine of medicinal foods and cultivated plants prepared in unusual ways; 59 plant taxa were used in human folk medicine and 20 plant taxa in local ethnoveterinary practices. In total, 221 preparations, the large majority plant-based, were recorded. Among the findings, the uncommon food uses of potato leaves as a vegetable and lacto-fermented potato tubers (until the recent past), the widespread use of Chenopodium and Rumex spp. as wild vegetables, as well as the leaves of Ilex aquifolium as a diuretic remedy, dried wild orchid tubers to treat cough and helminthiasis, and elderberry flowers to treat wounds, deserve further investigation. Approximately half of the plant uses reported by Aromanians were not recorded among Albanians, thus suggesting divergent ethnobotanical pathways, perhaps due to the different religious faiths of the two communities, which have prevented intermarriage over the last few centuries.