Yesterday we had another bloggy visit. Stefani of Sicilian Sisters Grow Some Food came to see us all the way from California for the second time this year.
This time she didn't only bring her husband Eric along, but her 4 children as well, which insisted on being introduced to all the animals around our village.
Here's her youngest trying to feed grass to a donkey's bottom...
So, if you were wondering why she hasn't posted anything on her blog for a while, here's the answer: She's been taken her family on tractor rides in Italy amongst other things.
On another note, it's time for the wild food of the month feature. For October this should normally undisputedly be the chestnut. However, I have in the past written extensively about this beautiful fruit (here for instance), and this year we have an exceptionally bad year for them
Initially I had put that down to the vagaries of nature until I realised that just a few km up the valley, they have an extremely good year for chestnuts. Due to the above average rainfall this year, they have grown to a larger size and the crop is particularly healthy. The area around and just above our village on the other hand seems to have produced hardly anything and on closer inspection the leaves on the trees have started turning autumnal at least a month ahead of normal.
A chance meeting in the woods gave part of the explanation: insects have spread a virus amongst the trees and helicopters have already dropped large quantities of predatory insects to control the harmful ones, but it may already too late to save the extensive woods for a few km around us.
Further research on the internet seems to suggest that we are suffering from a twin attack of chestnut blight, which has caused famines in some of the remoter valleys shortly after the war, and the Oriental chestnut gall wasp. Over in Arcola we have a tree on our land which has not been affected so far, but we do have to go further afield for our chestnuts this year. I hope they'll manage to control these outbreaks, it's one of the most calorie-rich wild foods we gather.
So instead I'll write something on the little blue myrtle berry.
It may be a bit of an exaggeration to call it a wild food. The main use for it is as an ingredient for a Sardinian liqueur called mirto. There are 2 versions of it mirto bianco, made from the extremely aromatic leaves, and mirto classico, a dark red liqueur made from the berries. I have made neither so far, but I've picked a mixture of the berries and leaves today to dry for later use. The berries are also said to be good used cooked with venison or wild boar. The leaves, as I have already found out can be used in these essential oil burners instead of essential oil to spread a pleasant aroma in the room. I imagine they'd be good as part of a stuffing for some rabbit or grouse for example, although again not tried yet. Anyboy knows of any other uses, I'd love to hear.