About a week ago these posters appeared all over our village: "Mangiar la Foglia" - Eat the Leaf. It announced a 2-day wildfood event orgnised by our local council. Those of you who know me, will know that I immediately got very excited indeed. Whilst I do know many of the wild edibles in our region there's always scope to learn some more. And of course our helpXers currently with us also have an interest in free and wholesome food.
The event kicked off on Friday night with a talk and slideshow in the village sports centre. The speaker introduced himself as an enthusiast rather than an expert, and he said he would restrict his lecture on seasonal greens found in our region only, thus excluding the whole field of fungi, which he reckoned merited a separate lecture. He then proceeded in showing us slides of some 100 plants and told us about their uses and how to identify them. Many examples were laid out on a table too for everyone to touch and ask about. There was so much information crammed into the 2 hour talk, that it was impossible to take it all in and it bode well for the guided walk the next day. 80 people had turned up for the event (i.e. a third of the entire population, although a few people turned up from outside the village).
Saturday afternoon we all met up again down in the valley, where the whole crowd started off, initially in an orderly fashion with only occasional dives into the grassbanks...
...into the olive groves of a local landowner (with his express permission), where a true wild food gathering frenzy ensued...
The two accompanying experts were in constant demand: "Can you eat this?"
"This is how you cut this"
Stephen, one of our helpers, proudly displaying a find. The message being, anything that vaguely looks like dandelion is edible, although I forget what this one was called.
Amongst our more interesting finds were wild parsley (above and below). Although it does not smell as intensly of parsley the taste is unmistakable.
This they simply called salvia / sage, but it doesn't resemble common sage in any way, neither in looks nor smell. It must be different variety altogether although I haven't been able to find out what it is exactly:
The roots of this plant are very tender and tasty. Someone named it Castracano, but I may have picked the name up incorrectly as I can't find anything under this name. Anyone know what this is:
Of course Addie also enthusiastically joined in the fun.
Amongst other treasure we found were aspragine, navel's wort, we found that some of the aspargus we've been collecting wasn't asparagus at all, but hop shoots, which are just as edible. After some exhausting foraging the owner of the olive groves served us all with a snack of testaroli (local type of pancake) with pesto and a glass or three of his wine.
The whole event finally wound up back at the village hall, where we had a dinner of wild asparagus risotto wild greens tart and a grilled meat platter accompanied by a mixture of wild greens.
It happened to be Stephen's birthday as well, so it was a memorable one for him. Sadly Frances and Stephen were on their way again this morning heading south, but they promised to see us again on their way back up the Italian boot. If you want to read what they have made out of the olive pruning and their other adventures check out their blog. I'm pleased to say that not only have we benefitted from their help with the olives and the repair on our terraces, but have also gained a couple of new friends. That is what helpX should all be about. Thank you Frances and Stephen!
NB: I've just figured out that it's called aspraggine and in English known as Hawkweed Oxtongue. It's what Stephen is holding up on the central picture.