Traditional use of tarragon/pèrschtròmm (Artemisia dracunculus L., Asteraceae) in the linguistic island of Sappada/Plodn (European Alps, northern Italy)
Keywords:Traditional Plant Knowledge, Useful Plants, tradition ecological knowledge, cultural identity,
Background: tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus L.) is a perennial herb or subshrub belonging to the Asteraceae family. It is widely used in culinary recipes from several areas of the world for its aromatic properties. This study analyses the traditional use and the cultivation of this crop in the village of Sappada/Plodn, a German linguistic island in north-eastern Italy. Here, the species, vernacularly known as “pèrschtròmm”, is employed to flavour a sour soft cheese, called “saurnshotte”.
Methods: this paper verifies the taxonomic identity of pèrschtròmm and studies its traditional use in Sappada/Plodn. The gathered informations concerned tarragon propagation, cultivation, plant material processing and preparation of saurnshotte. The survey is based on ethnobotanical interviews integrated with literature research.
Results: tarragon is still cultivated by a dozen inhabitants, but its use on domestic scale for cheese production is almost disappeared. Nevertheless, the recent revival of this tradition is bringing the production of saurnshotte from a domestic scale to a commercial one finding a place in the Sappada economy that is mostly touristic based.
Discussion: tarragon is not a common ingredient in northern Italy culinary traditions and It is interesting to note that the cultivation of this crop is limited to Sappada/Plodn, not occurring in neighbouring villages. This fact supports the connection between Sappada/Plodn with Tyrolean and Carinthian regions, where Sappada inhabitants are supposed to come from.
Conclusions: the survey definitely verified the taxonomic identity of pèrschtròmm with tarragon, sustaining the identification with herbarium vouchers. The current cultivation and processing of tarragon for saurnshotte production is still a cultural heritage of the linguistic island, even if threatened by the low number of depositaries of folk knowledge and the local commercialization of fake-typical product tarragon based.
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