Annual Kent-Kew Distinguished Ethnobotanist Lecture

Wild vegetable produce at Iraqi market stall

The Annual Ethnobotany Lecture was founded in 2000 and is a highlight of the academic year for the postgraduate programme. It is sponsored jointly by the Centre for Biocultural Diversity at Kent and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. The lectureship is awarded to ethnobotanists who have made a significant impact on the subject and who have established a reputation in the public understanding of science. Recent lecturers have included Gary Martin, Victoria Reyes-Garcia, Will McClatchey and Nancy Turner.

Annual Kent-Kew Distinguished Ethnobotanist Lecture 2019

‘Shifting geographics of ethnobotany: How Iraqi is the Mediterranean diet?’
Professor Andrea Pieroni, University of Gastronomic Sciences, Pollenzo, Italy

The Mediterranean Diet, now recognised as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity, has been and still partially is a food system largely based on wild vegetables, which have been surprisingly neglected in both bio-scientific and historical-anthropological food studies. These complex ethnobotanical foodscapes possibly emerged in the Neolithic period in the Fertile Crescent and migrated westwards through the Mediterranean area. This presentation will show the wild-food ethnobotany of diverse populations of the Middle East and the Caucasus, and will discuss the similarity between the wild vegetables gathered and consumed by Christian communities in Iraq, who possibly represent the descendants of ancient Assyrian and Mesopotamic populations, and those of the Greek and Sicilian traditional diets. We will eventually propose the idea that wild vegetables should be considered indelible signatures for understanding the origins of dietary systems.

Previous Lectures


  • 2018
    Discovering new wild edible plants in Europe: From 19th Century famine potherb to 21st Century hipster food
    Dr Łukasz Łuczaj
  • 2017
    In the footsteps of Rumphius: History and ethnobotanical entanglements in the spice islands
    Emeritus Professor RoyEllen, FBA
  • 2016
    Local names reveal how enslaved Africans recognised substantial parts of the New World flora
    Tinde van Andel
  • 2015
    Why ritual and incense plants are important
    Caroline Weckerle
  • 2014
    Evolutionary Ecology as a Driver of New Questions in Ethnobotany
    Doyle B. McKey
  • 2013
    The Ethnobiology of Crop Domestication and Evolution: Fostering resilience of social ecological systems in the Anthropocene
    Pablo B. Eyzaguirre, Senior Scientist, Bioversity International
  • 2012
    Medicinal plant trade, conservation and local livelihoods in southern Morocco
    Gary Martin
  • 2011
    Ethnobotany of the Home and Hearth
    Will McClatchey
  • 2010
    The dynamics of ethnobotanical knowledge in a globalized world: examples from the Tsimane indigenous people (Bolivian Amazon)
    Victoria Reyes-García
  • 2009
    Bringing the food back home indigenous foodways, nutrition and biodiversity indigenous foodways, nutrition and biodiversity in western Canada.
    Nancy Turner
  • 2008
    Austrian alpine ethnobotany: examples and trends for the use and management of plant species in the Austrian Alps
    Christian Vögl
  • 2007
    Local perceptions and forest policy: conservation and logging in Papua New Guinea
    Paul Sillitoe
  • 2006
    Taking stock of nature? Ethnobotany and action in participatory ecological governance
    Anna Lawrence
  • 2005
    Ancient trees and what people do to them
    Oliver Rackham
  • 2004
    Gender bias in ethnobotany: propositions and evidence of a distorted science, and promises of a brighter future
    Patricia Howard
  • 2003
    The origins and spread of agriculture: a comparative world view.
    David Harris
  • 2002
    Globalization of traditional knowledge systems: implications for innovation, flow and appropriation of knowledge
    Miguel Alexiades
  • 2001
    Plants and people in Amazonian Peru
    Oliver Philipps
  • 2000
    The light at the edge of the world: vanishing cultures, enduring lives; an ethnobotanist’s view
    Wade Davis

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