orWine Tastings in the Comfort of you own villa or B&B while on holiday in Tuscany or Liguria

To book an informative and fun wine tasting whilst holidaying in Italy or arrange for a wild food walk in your area contact me on tuscanytipple at libero dot it or check out my Facebook page

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Sunday, 16 September 2012

Wild Food of the month: Savoury

On Friday we decided to hit the mountain road.  A little rain and a crisp easterly wind have cleared the air affording us some spectacular views over the sea.  So we drove down the coast a little and drove up this road into the Apuan Alps above the city of Massa.  The Apuan Alps are famous for their Carrarra marble.

Our destination was a botanic garden where I was hoping to find some interesting native plants: the Orto Botanico "Pietro Pellegrini".  If you are travelling in this area I can't recommend this place highly enough.  It is a natural rather than a formal botanic garden displaying the local flora only on a spectacular mountain setting.  It lies at over 900m altitude and the sea lies just below you.

As for practicalities, the place is open from May to September, entrance is free and you get a guide thrown in as well.  Ours was a charming natural science student from Pisa:

Spring no doubt would be the better time to visit when they have dozens of orchid species in flower.  However one of my discoveries of the day was wild winter savourysatureia montana.  

I have long known this herb and routinely grow it amongst beans, but I have never seen it in its wild habitat, which is the mountainous regions of the Mediterranean.  

For those not familiar with this herb, it is to beans what basil is to tomatoes.  It makes a great companion plant to beans, but it also combines well with beans on the plate.  Not only does the warm, peppery taste go well with beans, it also aids digestion and prevents excessive bloating, which can of course be a problem with beans.  It associates so well with beans that in German they in fact call it Bohnenkraut", which means bean herb.

A tea made from the herb is also good as a blood cleanser.  Leaves rubbed onto a bee sting is a traditional cure.  And bees get attracted to the flowers if you have this herb growing in your garden.  Now I know where to find it in the wild.

And finally... Eddie the Beagle also had a great day out.  Here he is doing his mountain goat impression:

Monday, 3 September 2012


Some of you might remember me suffering some sort of foot injury about a month ago.  After some work on the land my left foot all of sudden swoll up to almost 3 times its normal size, became bright red and hugely painful.  After a few days of not being able to walk I finally let myself be dragged kicking and screaming to the hospital (I don't trust the medical profession much...).  They seemed generally puzzled as to what this might be, but without doing any further tests put me antibiotics.  They didn't do the trick either and 2 weeks on I was still not walking.  So I hobbled to my GP, who put me on different antibiotics.  After another week I finally started walking a bit and the pain lessened, so I thought the second lot of antibiotics had some effect, but I was still none the wiser as to the cause.  Even now, almost a month later I still can't get that foot into a shoe.

Yesterday my neighbour suggested maybe I've got bitten by a centipede.  We looked at a couple of pictures on the internet and I said, yep I've seen one like this one around:

I've seen a couple scuttling about where we have dug the hole for the pond.  Looked a bit like that one and about 15cm long.  I had no idea they bite!  Well I looked up centipede bite and lo and behold, the symptoms were pretty much like described above.  In people less healthy than myself they can also cause heart palpitations and a racing pulse.  People allergic to bee stings can also have nasty episodes from a bite from one of those fellows.  Also children and the elderly are at risk of having much worse consequences than I have experienced.

This will certainly teach me to put my be-sandalled feet in places where I can't see them.  But before you go and irradicate any you see, centipedes do play an important role in the soil food web(as explained in the same post I showed you my dodgy foot...), both as predators as well as prey.  They are pretty much carnivors and eat a lot of other insects including pests.  And they provide a welcome meal for birds, lizards, mice and snakes.  It's never a good idea to take out a link in the food chain, but rather attract predators to control your potential problem.  So once the pond is in action it will also attract wildlife to control these creatures.

Oh and apparently antibiotics don't do anything against the bites.  Pain killers and / or cortisone tend to be prescribed to treat the symptoms.  Else your body just has to cope with it.