Wild herbs and almost lost wisdom


Supermarkets and seasons do not really go together well. We want everything throughout the year, so vegetables travel quite a lot before being displayed on shelves. They necessarily need to be harvested ages before being sold as perfectly ripe and to be maintained appealing to the view with the help of not so appetising additives. This sadly means that their “vitality” and their nutritive value is practically close to zero.

This is why I love spontaneous herbs and fruits: they do not cheat, they can’t.

They grow making their way in the most unthinkable places respecting the timings Mother Nature is still allowed to impose. Some of them, beside being edible, also possess some distinctive and powerful healing properties. In the past, people were commonly aware of them, but we have simply lost trace of this knowledge.

Sometimes it happens that, by pure chance, I can spot them down the slopes that face the sea or along the highways and byways where the winds and the frequent british showers have spared them from the direct exposure to exhaust fumes. So I am confident to pick them, and a nice prolonged wash in water and a little sterilising fluid doesn’t hurt either.

So far, I have been able to find only a few of the herbs I used to pick in Italy. Dandelion – “Taraxacum officinale” – was obviously the easiest to find: it grows anywhere. Then, I found “Chenopodium album”, better known as Goosefoot or Lamb’s Quarter, which is a delicious type wild spinach. And just a few days ago I have found a treasure: “Silene Vulgaris”… a whole carpet of it! I came back home with four bags of it! In England is generally known as Bladder Campion from the shape of its flower’s chalice. In our local dialect it is called “Sclopit” – from the verb “sclopâ”, which means “to pop” – because the green sealed chalice pops with noise when squeezed. Risotto with Silene is typical of Friuli, my region, and it’s one of the most beautiful dishes on Earth… I had to keep that in mind to go through almost six hours of work to clean the Bladder Campion and to separate it’s meaty leaves form the stems!

I am still looking for other plants and my most wanted are the “Humulus Lupulus” – a wild hop – and “Clematis Vitalba” which is a wild climber. Also the leaves of wild Poppies are a delicacy – “Papaver rheas” – but I haven’t been able to find any, not even in crops before the harvest. I’m afraid that weed killers have done their job too well… If any of you know about them, or have seen them somewhere, please let me know!

To save this subject from the automatisms of the blog’s timeline, I decided to dedicate a whole page to it: “Wisdom of the Wild”. It probably won’t be the richest page of the website, but most certainly one of my dearest.

Click on the following links to know more…

Dandelion  – “Taraxacus officinale”

Wild Spinach – “Chenopodium Album”

Bladder Campion – “Silene Vulgaris”

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