From economic survival to recreation: Contemporary uses of wild food and medicine in rural Sweden, Ukraine and NW Russia

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Background: There are many ethnobotanical studies on the use of wild plants and mushrooms for food and medicinal treatment in Europe. However, there is a lack of comparative ethnobotanical research on the role of non-wood forest products (NWFPs) as wild food and medicine in local livelihoods in countries with different socio-economic conditions. The aim of this study was to compare the present use of wild food and medicine in three places representing different stages of socio-economic development in Europe. Specifically we explore which plant and fungi species people use for food and medicine in three selected rural regions of Sweden, Ukraine and the Russian Federation. Methods: We studied the current use of NWFPs for food and medicine in three rural areas that represent a gradient in economic development (as indicated by the World Bank), i.e., Småland high plain (south Sweden), Roztochya (western Ukraine), and Kortkeros (Komi Republic in North West Russia). All areas were characterised by (a) predominating rural residency, (b) high forest coverage, and (c) free access to NWFPs. A total of 205 in-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with local residents in the three study areas. The collected NWFPs data included (1) the species that are used; (2) the amount harvested, (3) uses and practices (4) changes over time, (5) sources of knowledge regarding the use of NWFPs as wild food and medicine and (6) traditional recipes. Results: In Sweden 11 species of wild plant and fungi species were used as food, and no plant species were used for medicinal purposes. In Ukraine the present use of NWFPs included 26 wild foods and 60 medicinal species, while in Russia 36 food and 44 medicinal species were reported. Conclusions: In the economically less developed rural areas of Ukraine and Russia, the use of NWFPs continues to be an important part of livelihoods, both as a source of income and for domestic use as food and medicine. In Sweden the collection of wild food has become mainly a recreational activity and the use of medicinal plants is no longer prevalent among our respondents. This leads us to suggest that the consumption of wild food and medicine is influenced by the socio-economic situation in a country.




Stryamets, N. N., Elbakidze, M. M., Ceuterick, M. M., Angelstam, P. P., & Axelsson, R. R. (2015). From economic survival to recreation: Contemporary uses of wild food and medicine in rural Sweden, Ukraine and NW Russia. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, 11(1).

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