Invasive Species Compendium

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Abstract

Multithreaded role of Apiaceae vegetables through Polish history.

Abstract

Vegetables belonging to the Apiaceae family are widely produced in Poland, providing important economic input. Among many the Apiaceae crops, only a few are referred to as native to Central Europe. Moreover, the period of their domestication or introduction in this region is ambiguously presented in the historical sources, as is their role across various components of human life. The aim of this work was to comprehensively study Polish archaeobotanical publications, guides, textbooks and the other written sources published until the 20th century, in order to analyze the importance of Apiaceae vegetables in the historical lands of Poland. We focused on the timeline of species introduction, increase or decline of economic importance, and changes in species diversity, as well as the development of cultivation technology. The data from archaeobotanical publications indicate that some of the Apiaceae, including carrot and parsnip, were cultivated on Polish lands before the 10th century. The medieval historical documents mention many Apiaceae crops which are no longer in cultivation nowadays, like ground elder or skirret. In this period, the possible role of monastery gardens in spreading modern horticultural practices across Central Europe should be underlined. In the 16th century, a significant impact on horticultural development in Poland was attributed to Queen Bona Sforza's court's diet, based on Mediterranean vegetables including Apiaceae species and landraces, which significantly increased biodiversity in cultivation. In Polish horticultural literature since the Renaissance, Apiaceae crops have usually been associated with the 'root vegetables' whereas species grown for leaves have been commonly classified among spices or medicinal plants. Apiaceae crops' diversity as well as their economic value changed through the ages, but they always played an important role in Polish horticulture as evidenced in inspections, testaments, inventories, guides and gardening textbooks created over the last 500 years.