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Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Of living cash-less and wild food of the season

Sorry it's been a while since the last post, but the weather has been so good, we've been working hard. It's been dry since the last post, quite cold at times, but spring-like whenever the sun makes an appearance. We've dug over more beds in preparation for spring and continued pruning the olives at Popetto. The last few trees are turning into real hard work, but we're slowly getting there.

There are a couple of things I want to talk about today. Firstly I read this article in the Guardian about this guy who has given up cash for a year, and no I don't mean he is paying everything by credit card! Here's the link:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/green-living-blog/2009/oct/28/live-without-money. Now we're not a million miles away from what he is doing, rarely being in posession of any cash. Unfortunately we still have to pay for electricity and phone bills and can't quite do without a car.
Well this man set up a "freeconomy community", which I've just joined: http://www.justfortheloveofit.org/. On this people list their skills and equipment to offer for free to other community members. Unfortunately there's no one near me yet who has also joined, so all of you, whether you live near me or not, join! This is such a great idea.

Today I am starting an at least monthly series on wild foods of the season. Our short cold spell is over and herbs are growing everywhere again, sending us on forages. Of course each region will have different plants or they will be ready at different times of the year, but I'll give you a glimpse at what we collect and what you can do with it. There's not a month without some wild crop or other which can be harvested.
So here we go, wild food for January: the humble daisy

In fact it can be gathered any time of the year when the ground isn't covered by snow. Both the flowers and the ground hugging leaves are edible. Simply throw them into a salad to add a mild camomile flavour. The leaves can be boiled briefly together with other greens or stirred into a risotto or soup. They are said to have a cleansing, detox effect.

The other plant we have started gathering is common chicory.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicory. That photo is actually a cheat, as it is flowering radicchio, which is a close relation to the wild chicory. The leaves of wild chicory are a bit similar to dandelion (another relation and of course also edible), but less indented. As with dandelion the younger the leaves the less bitter they are. In fact at the moment the tender young leaves are more sweet than bitter. This is explained by the fact that they contain a high concentration of inulin, which is a good sugar substitute for diabetics.

All plants of the chicory family are hostile to intestinal parasites, so drive out any worms you may have. How to eat them? Well of course you can add them to your salad as well to give a bit of a bitter/sweet edge to it, but the most popular way it is used here in Italy by just blanching them in boiling water for 1/2 minute or so, drain and serve with a dressing of lemon juice and olive oil as side veg.


River-Rose said...

I love it! We have snow on the ground here in Idaho, but how pretty it will be to serve a Daisy salad! Can't wait!

Ayak said...

Turkish women spend hours collecting wild herbs and plants. I'm afraid I'm not very good at recognising what these various plants are.
However we have an abundence of wild mint growing in our garden at the moment and I'm wondering if you have any ideas for me. Obviously I can dry it (actually how do I do this at the moment now that the weather is cold? Can I freeze the leaves? Any other ideas?

Heiko said...


To dry them in less than dry weather you can put them in a warm oven (80-100 degrees maybe) leaving the door slighly ajar until the herbs a crisp and can be cumbled up. However, I always found that quite an expensive method. For freezing I suppose you do the same as with parsley: chop finely and put into an icecube tray. Top up with water and freeze. Take the cubes out and store in a plastic bag in the freezer. Everytime you want to use the herb in anything you just drop a cube or 2 into your food.

Other thyan that I love fresh mint simply sprinkled on potatoes with a bi of butter or oil and salt and pepper.

River-rose, there are many edible flowers and by summer you can make a lovely colourful salad with daisies, borage, violets, nasturtium to name but a few. Welcome to my blog.

Mr. H. said...

You made my day! First of all, I am excited that you will be talking about wild edibles as that is one of my most favorite topics. And second, I had no idea that people could eat a daisy, they do grow wild all over my area in the summer...so cool, thanks a million...daisies that is.

I am looking forward to checking out the links you provided.

Heiko said...

Mr. H,
I'm getting quite obsessive about this. I can't look at an ordinary meadow without thinking about dinner!

Ruralrose said...

I also did not know about eating daisies and they are everywhere here. I did not know chicory wards off parasites, I shall eat it all summer long. I too only see food in a meadow, chickweed, lambs quarters, dandelion, nettles, mouth is watering right now. Excellent post sir. Peace

chaiselongue said...

I didn't know you could eat daisies - we don't see them here, but we had lots in Wales. Radicchio flowers are lovely, aren't they, and we see flowers like them in the wild here, which must be wild chicory. I'm looking forward to the rest of this series!

I saw the Guardian video too - very interesting, and brave in all that snow. The freeconomy idea is great too, although here we already have an informal version of it in the village, where everyone shares tools, plants, vegetables, advice and so on (but not online, of course), and we spend very little on the garden. Maybe it's more to do with re-creating villages in the city. A brilliant idea, though.

Heiko said...


I know what you mean. Our village has a similar system too. Tomorrow we're picking up manure from a neighbour, another gives us spare wood and another helps with pc problems. It is really all about getting back to basics when we all lived in a real community

Jan said...

I hadn't realised that you can eat ordinary daisies... not that they grow here, but still. I've bookmarked that website, it looks interesting.

Heiko said...

Everybody seems quite astonished that daisies are edible. I gleened this info off a calendar from my local hardware store which listed a wild food of the month on each leaf. That was last year and I've been eating them ever since with no ill effects. Herbalists do use them in teas though, so, although I have not had confirmation elsewhere of daisies as a food plant, I'm sure it can't do any harm.