Four hundred and two interviews have been administered to 89 informants, of which 38 (43%) were women and 51 (57%) were men. Informants were between the ages of 48–82, with the average age of 66.
A total of 78 plants have been recorded. All these species are native and are gathered from the wild whilst 11 of them are cultivated as well (Ceratonia siliqua, Eruca sativa, Mentha spicata, Origanum dubium, Rosmarinus officinalis, Thymus capitatus, Laurus nobilis, Ficus carica, Myrtus communis, Portulaca oleracea, Crataegus azarolus). Comparing the plants recorded in the two sites it can be seen that 40 plants are common in both sites, 5 of the edible plants are used exclusively in Larnaca site and 33 plants are used exclusively in Paphos site. Within the two sites the dependency of rural people on agriculture was much greater in the Paphos vine zone than in Larnaca site. According to studies of 1983  in Paphos site 71% of rural people were gainfully employed in agriculture and 29% in other occupation whilst in Larnaca site 43% of people employed in agriculture and 57% in other occupation. The closer relation of the indigenous people with their land probably resulted to the higher degree of usage of the natural plant resources in Paphos site. Additionally, many villages in Paphos site are near or within the Akamas Nature Reserve, a big area with many natural habitats and rich vegetation and therefore many of the wild edibles are gathered from the undisturbed shrublands of the area. Furthermore, the middle-aged generation of the Paphos vine zone, even though working in the town, they have relation with the countryside, still gaining profits from their grapes, and therefore still preserve some of the TK of their parents.
The survey of wild edible plants of Paphos and Larnaca countryside is the first study in Cyprus which has followed ethnobotanical methodology, recording not only a species list but ways of gathering, storage, preservation, preparation processes, common and traditional recipes and therefore the comparison of our data with previous studies is not possible. However, an attempt was made in order to compare only the species list of wild edibles recorded in our two study areas with the list of edible wild plants of the Cyprus Flora published in 2000 which enlisted 57 edible species from all around the island . From the comparison was revealed that 47 plants were recorded in both species lists, 29 wild edibles were reported for the first time in our ethnobotanical study and 10 species were recorded only in Savvides' list and not in ours.
All the plants recorded are presented in Table 1 with the indication of scientific name, vernacular name, family, plant part used, type of preparation, site recorded, number of records and herbarium specimen number.
Most used plants
The recorded plants belong to 31 different families. Asteraceae was with difference the most frequently encountered botanical family with 20 taxa, whilst Apiaceae and Brassicaceae follow with seven taxa, Lamiaceae with six and Boraginaceae is represented by four taxa. The other 26 families have less representation between one to three taxa each. Most of them are big families with many representatives in the Mediterranean region, some of which are very common plants. The data of this study confirm that people tend to use preferably the plants that are easily available to them excluding of course, those that are toxic or noxious. As was affirmed by other publications as well [19
], the more common a plant (family or species) is in an area, the greater is the probability of its popular use. As for the most known and used species 13 of them were cited 10 times or more. The food utilization of Centaurea hyalolepi
s, has been reported by 18 informants, followed by Silene vulgaris
(17 citations), Capparis spinosa
(16 citations), Thymus capitatus
(16 citations), Asparagus acutifolius
(15 citations), Malva parviflora
(14 citations), Scolymus hispanicus
(13 citations), Eryngium creticum
(12 citations), Foeniculum vulgare
(11 citations), Onopordum cyprium
, Carlina involucrata
and Portulaca oleracea
with 10 citations each. A high number of plants (49 out of 78) have been recorded by at least three independent informants, so that they follow the reliability criterion of Le Grand and Wondergem [23
] and would be particularly interesting in view of further studies [22
At this point it should be noted that 40 of the edible plants recorded are used exclusively for food. Some other plants have two or more uses and they appear in different categories as well. As can be seen in figure 2, 37 (30+4+3) plants have been recorded to be used for food as well as for medicine.
This overlap indicates the close relationship between health and food. A good example to this is Origanum dubium. The origan, locally called "rigani", is one of the most commonly edible plants used and many traditional recipes were recorded for its use as a condiment such as in recipes of roasted meat, as a scent in kebab, and is added as a scent in a traditional recipe, called "tsamarella" which is made from salted goat meat. It is also considered one of the most commonly used medicinal with about six different recipes, against flu, cold, as antipyretic, anti-stress, for stomach-ache and good digestion. These plants (Origanum dubium, Thymus capitatus, Laurus nobilis, among others) are often used in folk medicine as digestive, so it may be that their presence in these often heavy dishes is not only a culinary but medicinal, to increase the digestibility of the cooked food . Overlapping between foods and medicines is quite well known in traditional societies [24-26] and represents an often neglected field in ethnopharmaceutical research.
Plant supply/availability throughout a year
Most of the plants are collected in wild populations nearby the places where the informants live. Occasionally there is a small-scale cultivation in their home gardens (Origanum dubium
, Myrtus communis
, Crataegus azarolus
). Some plants which were very much appreciated and frequently consumed in the past are now considered as weeds and even though have been mentioned they are only rarely eaten; in the territories studied this is the case of Sinapis alba
and Sinapis arvensis
spp. are still eaten in other areas of Cyprus [13
Among all the edibles, four endemic species of Cyprus were recorded. The presence of endemic species illustrates the fact that the informants have a deep knowledge of their environment, since the three of them are not very abundant and can be found only in certain areas. For example, the endemic subspecies Carlina involucrata ssp. cyprica and Centaurea calcitrapa ssp. angusticeps are used only from the inhabitants of specific villages in Paphos area whilst the endemic Origanum majorana var. tenuifolium, which is used like common oregano, can be found only in a shrubland area of the Akamas National Park. The endemic species Onopordum cyprium, is used both in Paphos and Larnaca site and is a very common plant (Figures 6 and 7).
One of the favourite edibles of the recent past, Gundelia tournefortii, known by locals in Paphos area as "silifa", is under threat since it has become rare and it can not easily be found. This plant has been included in the Red data book of Cyprus Flora as Endangered because its populations have been eliminated .
Most wild species are gathered from waste and uncultivated land (48%) or from shrubland (17%) and by the roadside (12%). Eight percent (8%) of wild edibles are grown within or around the cultivations and therefore can be collected from the cultivated land of grape vines in Paphos and Cereals in Larnaca,
In the local Cyprus cuisine, greens and wild plants in general, have an important role. According to this study during winter, it is possible to use 49 wild plants, and this number can increase to 56 during spring. The number then decreases and in May many edible greens have bloomed and the leaves have become tough, leaving only about 16 still edible. During summer some fruits of wild trees are edible.
From these plants only 15 can be purchased throughout a year from local markets and stores (Capparis spinosa, Ceratonia siliqua, Cynara cornigera, Eruca sativa, Mentha spicata, Origanum dubium, Rosmarinus officinalis, Pistacia lentiscus, Silene vulgaris, Thymus capitatus, Laurus nobilis, Ficus carica, Myrtus communis, Portulaca oleracea, Crataegus azarolus). These plants are partly collected from the wild and partly coming from small scale cultivation. Some of them are used as a condiment, some others are consumed as greens in salads or they are used for the preparation of cooked recipes. The other 66 taxa people should gather only from the wild by themselves (Figure 3).
As regards the tools used for gathering, 44% of the plants are gathered simply by hand while 37 % are gathered by a knife. Other tools such as a big knife (9%), a traditional big curved knife called "skylloua" (7%) and scissors (3%) are also used.
4.3 Plant parts
Within the edible plants, leaves (29%) and stems (25%) are the plant parts most widely used. Fruits and aerial part follow with 16% and 15% respectively (Figure 4
Among the recorded plants thistles are very popular as wild edibles of Cyprus. The young stems of 16 wild plants are used. Eight of them are used in both sites (Centaurea hyalolepis, Scolymus hispanicus, Scolymus maculatus, Onopordum cyprium, Eryngium creticum, Cynara scolymus, Echinops spinosissimus, Notobasis syriaca, while seven of them are used exclusively in Paphos site (Centaurea calcitrapa ssp. angusticeps, Silybum marianum, Cynara cardunculus, Carlina involucrata ssp. cyprica, Carduus argentatus ssp. acicularis, Gundelia turnefortii, Onopordum bracteatum) and one of them is used exclusively in Larnaca site (Cynara cornigera). These plants can be gathered from January to March, and their young stems, cleaned of spines, are used in most cases boiled with legumes or fried.
Models of consumption
The edible plants are consumed in many different ways. Some of them need only the washing of the part of the plant to be eaten, and some others imply a more or less complex preparation process (Figure 5
Many plants (26%) with edible leaves, roots or fruits are eaten raw. Many of them are used in salads. This is the case of Portulaca oleracea
, Ammi majus
, Apium nodiflorum
, Taraxacum cyprium
, Capsella bursa-pastoris
, Foeniculum vulgare
, Mentha pulegium
which are usually dressed with oil, and vinegar or lemon. Some others like Sinapis alba
, Sinapis arvensis
, Taraxacum hellenicum
, Cichorium intybus
, Nasturtium officinale
, Sonchus oleraceus
, Allium neapolitanum
are eaten fresh with olives, onions and bread. On the other hand, many edible fruits are directly consumed as desserts, in fresh form (Pyrus syriaca
, Crataegus azarolus
, Crataegus monogyna
, Ziziphus lotus
). The existence of Limonium sinuatum
in this group is remarkable, because it is the first time that this plant is cited as a food plant in Cyprus [13
] even though has been listed as an edible for the Mediterranean in Bodrum area of Turkey [29
A number of wild plants (59%) are eaten cooked. Most of them, 27 %, are eaten boiled, 17% are eaten boiled alone and 10% are eaten boiled with legumes, especially with broad beans. In both cases they are garnished with olive-oil and lemon. The most popular plants used as boiled are: Centaurea hyalolepis
, Scolymus hispanicus
, Carlina involucrata
ssp. cyprica, Malva parviflora
. However, some more elaborated preparations were recorded. Some plants are consumed fried (9%) and especially in an omelette. The young shoots of Asparagus acutifolius
, Asparagus stipularis
and the young leaves of Silene vulgaris
, which are the most typical examples in both sites studied, are cut, fried and mixed with the eggs to make the omelette. Asparagus acutifolius
is prepared in the same way in some parts of Italy [28
] the Iberian Peninsula [19
] and in Bodrum area of Turkey [29
A number of wild edibles (17%) is used in traditional recipes. It is worth mentioning that very popular among traditional recipes in Cyprus are home made pies, called in general "pittes". Eleven plants are used for making traditional pies. First, dough is made from flour, water and salt and then it is used for making small pies. Some times the pies are filled with the boiled or fried leaves (Beta vulgaris ssp. maritima, Papaver rhoeas, Silene vulgaris, Rumex pulcher) along with rice or "pourgouri" (like couscous) and spices. Some other plants are used as a scent in the pie (Foeniculum vulgare, Mentha spicata). In other cases fruits raw or preserved are used as the main filling of the pie (Pistacia lentiscus, Pistacia terebinthus, Ficus carica). Pies are cooked in the oven. Wild plants can also be a basis for a soup, the most famous of which is the so-called "molochosoupa" (malva soup), made with Malva parviflora. Some plants are often cooked in a traditional recipe called "yiachni" meaning, fried with onions and then tomato juice is added. Finally, plants are sparsely a condiment or the complement of meat stews as occurs with Cynara cardunculus, Cynara cornigera and Gundelia tournefortii.
A number of plants are gathered and preserved to be stored and consumed all year round. Many plants which are used as a scent are dried and stored in plastic bags, plastic bottles or glass vessels and therefore used all year round. Nine plants (10%) are used to condiment stews, soups, pies or other dishes and traditional recipes. The most popular aromatic plants are Origanum dubium, Mentha spicata, Rosmarinus officinalis, Laurus nobilis, Thymus capitatus, Origanum majorana var. tenuifolium, Foeniculum vulgare. These plants add a distinct flavour and aroma to pies as well as to meat stews. Rosmarinus officinalis is used in a traditional fish recipe called savoro.
Some other plants such as Capparis spinosa, Crithmum maritimum, Eryngium creticum, Eryngium glomeratum and Muscari comosum, are preserved in vinegar and eaten like appetizer with several kind of food. Fruits of several wild trees are used for the preparation of jams and marmalades such as Pyrus syriaca, Crataegus azarolus and Crataegus monogyna.
Many tools used in processing were recorded. The five tools more often recorded are: "Madratzi", a traditional wooden long tool for opening pies, "Chti and Chtocheri", a traditional copper pot used for pounding, "Chartzi", a traditional copper pot used for boiling, "Satzi", a metal hot plate used for cooking pies, "Koumna", a traditional jar used for storage and "Gastra", an earthen vessel used for storage.