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Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Wild Food of the Month May

Alledgedly God invented the rainbow as a sign that he wasn't all going to drown us yet again. So He sent this beautiful rainbow a couple of days ago, seen from our front door.

However, this was a view from our window today, after the rainbow, and I swear, I just saw Noah and his ark float by... and we are 300 metres above sea level! Normally we can see as far as the island of Elba 100 miles from here. Now we barely see the neighbours roof!

This weather is ridiculous! I have never experienced a colder or wetter May anywhere, let alone in Italy. Last year at this time we had 35+ degrees, now it's 14! I apologise for the excessive use of exclamation marks, but there are just no words for it. There's so much to do on the land, but I'm just sitting indoors, twiddling thumbs.

Anyway, enough of that. On one of the few brief breaks in the rain, Sunday afternoon, we went for a wee walk along the coast.

And of course there's no such thing for me as just a walk if there's wild food to gather. I've first heard of the many uses for mallow from my buddy Mr.H. I've since discovered there's loads of it growing around here, I just didn't know what it looked like.

Richard Mabey's invaluable pocket guide Food for Free has an interesting recipe, which I modified slightly to test this new food (new to me that is, because alledgedly Horace ate nothing but olive oil, mallow and chicory).

The variety growing wild here is Common Mallow (it's common alright):

It has numereous health benefits and all parts of the plant are edible. It's high in mucus and as a tea relieves coughs. The root of a different species, marsh mallow, used to be used to make the famous confection, which I believe is now made exclusively from sugar. It is also rich in vitamins A, B1, B2 and C as well as various mineral salts. It can be used externally to treat skin diseases acne, burns and insect bites.

The seeds can be eaten raw as a snack, young leaves and flowers can be added to salads. The recipe I tried is a variant of the Egyptian soup Melokhia:

This is how I did it:

  • 500g mallow leaves
  • 1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 dried chilli of your preferred strength
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  1. Cook the mallow leaves in the stock for some 10 minutes
  2. In the meantime mash the spices and oil to a paste in a pestle and mortar, then fry gently in a separate pan for a couple of minutes.
  3. Add the paste to the soup and leave to simmer for anothe 2 or 3 minutes.
  4. Serve with bread
It's a lovely warming soup on a miserable, raniy May day.


Angela said...

I had to look it up - Malve! Interesting about the marsh mallows, now without mallows. I am learning from you, only I wonder if we have wild mallows here. Our weather is as cold (not as rainy) as yours, or worse (night frosts, 6° during the day). Who ever said we had global warming? A new ice age, is what Kenner der Ostsee say. The last one ended 10 000 years ago, and that is the normal fluctuation...Rainbows are probably overestimated. Cheers anyway, Heiko!

Heiko said...

Mallow is common throughout Europe along roadsides and on the edges of paths. They'll come a little later with you of course, but have a look out for the distinctly shaped, rough leaves. However be careful not to gather them from near fields which may have had chemical sprays used on them as the tend to concentrate them.

It certainly feels more like an ice age.

Angela said...

Are they related to Stockrosen? We have a lot of those! But still in the baby stage now, until suddenly they start racing up and with their beautiful blossoms attract all the bumblebees! Love them! Didn`t know you could eat them!

Heiko said...

Verwandt wohl, aber nicht das selbe...

Mr. H. said...

Your weather sounds a bit miserable, hopefully it will pass away soon and the sun will return to your village and gardens.

Mallow soup, how interesting, I shall have to try that sometime...and now I have a fine recipe.:) I've only eaten them raw. The small young leaves are great in salads but the bigger ones are best if one dices them up really fine before eating that way as they are a bit prickly/hairy.

It does not surprise me that Horace lived on such meager rations. One of my favorite quotes comes from him.

"He will always be a slave who does not know how to live upon a little."

Heiko said...

That is a great quote indeed, Mr.H. And yes, I did fail to mention in the recipe to chop the leaves very finely.

chaiselongue said...

That sounds like a nice spicy soup. I've seen mallow growing all over the place but didn't realise you could eat it (didn't look in my copy of Richard Mabey's book!).

It's cold for May here too, and wet. This morning there was a hint that summer might be on its way and it felt hot in the sun .... now the sun's disappeared again and it feels cold again. Fantastic view of the rainbow!

Jan said...

We have rain as I type, but not as much as you've had. I didn't know that plant was called common mallow - we do have it but it's not in flower yet, probably due to us being a further 250 metres odd higher than you!

Heiko said...

Happy to be of service :)

Ayak said...

Well I'm glad I popped in here today because I was only wondering recently about a suitable book for recognising wild plants and now you've mentioned Richard Mabey's book and as I'm in England at the moment I'm off to search for it.
Thankyou xx

Heiko said...

It's a Collins guide in pocket size.

Ayak said...

Thanks Heiko :-)

Vagabonde said...

I found your blog through Angela’s Letter from Usedom and enjoyed reading your past few posts. You live in a beautiful area of Italy. My last trip to Italy was to Pisa and its surrounding area plus a little train trip I took to Bordighera from Nice in France. We also had one day stop in Genoa last November but that was quite fast. I used to speak better Italian than English, but that was many years ago. I’ll come back to your blog.

Laura said...

A very interesting and informative post! I am definitely looking to improve my foraging skills, so I will have to see if I can find some mallow. And I had always wondered where the name 'marshmallows' came from - now I know!

Stefaneener said...

Oh dear, what weather.
We just saw a huge, arching rainbow like that. Could you please order warm weather for next week? I'm going to be much closer to you for a week. . .

Heiko said...

Stefanie, you are over to see the family? Weather has improved already! If you are coming further north, do come and see us!

Heiko said...

Hello and welcome Laura and Vagabond. Sorry for not acknowledging you earlier, I was off-line for a week after a thunderstorm. It indeed is a beautiful part of the world where we live. It's almost equidistant between Pisa and Genoa.

Kate said...

17 comments already.... I am running very late! Try a cold May here in Tasmania, the very bottom corner of Australia, Heiko, where winter is a whisker away and tonight it is down to 3C at 8pm. We have mallow here too.... no doubt introduced by some crazy Englishman, like foxes and rabbits! I am going to eat some tomorrow... I hope there is not a toxic relative lurking in my garden!!