Understanding cultural significance, the edible mushrooms case
Roberto Garibay-Orijel1, Javier Caballero2, Arturo Estrada-Torres3 and Joaquín Cifuentes4
1Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Apdo. Postal 113–100, Rumania N°700 Col. Portales, C.P. 03301, D.F, México
2Jardín Botánico, Instituto de Biología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Apdo. Postal 70–614, C.P. 04510, Ciudad Universitaria, D.F, México
3Laboratorio de Sistemática, Centro de Investigaciones en Ciencias Biológicas, Universidad Autónoma de Tlaxcala, Apdo. Postal 183, C.P. 90000, Tlaxcala, México
4Sección de Micología, Herbario FCME, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Apdo. Postal 70–181, C.P. 04510, Ciudad Universitaria, D.F, México
Cultural significance is a keystone in quantitative ethnobiology, which offers the possibility to make inferences about traditional nomenclature systems, use, appropriation and valuing of natural resources. In the present work, using as model the traditional mycological knowledge of Zapotecs from Oaxaca, Mexico, we analyze the cultural significance of wild edible resources.
In 2003 we applied 95 questionnaires to a random sample of informants. With this data we integrated the Edible Mushroom Cultural Significance Index. This index included eight variables: frequency of mention, perceived abundance, use frequency, taste, multifunctional food use, knowledge transmission, health and economy. Data were analyzed in an inductive perspective using ordination and grouping techniques to reveal the behavior of species in a cultural multivariate dimension.
In each variable the species had different conducts. Cantharellus cibarius s.l. was the species with most frequency of mention. Pleurotus sp. had the highest perceived abundance. C. cibarius s.l. was the most frequently consumed species. Gomphus clavatus was the most palatable species and also ranked highest in the multifunctional food index. Cortinarius secc.Malacii sp. had the highest traditional importance. Only Tricholoma magnivelare was identified as a health enhancer. It also had the most economic importance. According to the compound index, C. cibarius s.l., the Amanita caesarea complex, Ramaria spp. and Neolentinus lepideus were the mushrooms with highest cultural significance. Multivariate analysis showed that interviewees identify three main groups of mushrooms: species with high traditional values, frequent consumption and known by the majority; species that are less known, infrequently consumed and without salient characteristics; and species with low traditional values, with high economic value and health enhancers.
The compound index divided the cultural significance into several cultural domains and showed the causes that underlie this phenomenon. This approach can be used in cross-cultural studies because it brings a list with the relative position of species among a cultural significance gradient. This list is suitable for comparisons and also it is flexible because cultural variables can be included or removed to adjust it to the nature of the different cultures or resources under study.
Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 2007, 3:4. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.