Spring wild plants can become a delicious dish
Good morning, spring!
The first rays of the spring sun warm up the sleepy winter earth, and the harbingers of spring start to awaken. The meadows are turning greener, hellebores and snowdrops eagerly invite us in the forest while violets and primroses soften the greyness of the past months. Did you know that many spring plants can decorate our plates and that we can “pick” our lunch while walking in meadows? And so, the spring indicates the start of the season of picking edible wild plants or rather wild food.
Wild food – a step towards nature
Dario Cortese, an expert in the field, defines wild food as all edible food growing in nature; in forests, meadows and also in our gardens between cultivated vegetables, that is among weeds. Yes, that’s right, even some types of weeds are edible. It is precisely the field of edible plants that is one of those areas that break down many stereotypes about food and brings us back to nature, or rather towards it.
Nature is a rich treasure trove of wild food, but despite the luxury it offers, we have to be careful. First of all, we have to be cautious for our own safety, but let's not forget about respect for nature.
We can only harvest the plants that we are familiar with; many of them can poison us due to lack of knowledge. Find as much information possible about each plant, and compare it to other similar ones to avoid confusing them. Carefulness and knowledge are never redundant, nor are the Latin names, which guarantee that we are researching the right plant.
The wild trinity
The spring weather calls for walks in nature, which offers a wide variety of wild food. Embark on one of the hiking trails which will lead you among meadows and vineyards to the hinterland of Izola, and keep an eye out for options to enrich your meals.
You might notice wild garlic (Allium ursinum), whose scent is strongly reminiscent of regular garlic. It grows in the »green carpets« in beech, hornbeam, and oak forests, preferably in moisture and shade from March to early June and blooms from May to April. The edible parts are the leaves, which are tender and light green. They grow separately. We can also pick the buds, which are tiny and bloom into a white inflorescence. The leaves are picked before the plant blooms, as that is when, just like any other plant, they contain the most nutrients. We can use them fresh in salads or mix them into cream spreads. We can also cook them in soups; as a stand-alone soup to which we can add a hard-boiled egg or as an addition to other vegetable mixes. The buds are very tasty pickled, and their taste is reminiscent of capers.
One of the most popular spring edible plants is also the dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) with edible roots, leaves of the young plant, and blossoms. The roots can be dug up in the early spring (before flowering) or in the fall. If we dry and manually chop them, we can use them to brew a medicinal tea, especially beneficial for liver detoxification. We can also prepare a delicious salad using dandelion leaves, harvested before flowering, and enrich it with a boiled egg, potato, minced lard, or all three. When dandelions delight us with their flowers, we can capture their essence in a tasty syrup. It's easy to prepare and extremely useful. We can use it in tea instead of sugar, mix it with water and use it as a healthier version of store-bought syrups while undiluted syrup helps with seasonal illnesses by relieving sore throat and coughing.
However, the best know wild food in Istria is wild asparagus (Asparagus acutifolius). They grow individually, usually in the company of thorny undergrowth. We can find them from March to early June and use them to prepare a colorful array of dishes. The most common and easy way is to pair them with scrambled eggs.
The taste of grandma's cooking
We owe gratitude to our »nonnas« and »nonnos« who introduced us to the gifts of nature and reminded us about the edible wild plants. They also knew how to prepare delicious condiments and spices using combinations of harvested herbs. If you are not skilled in creating such mixes, you can »spice up« your dishes with already prepared spices Fina Isolana. Why not add a “Sea” blend and turn the delicate taste of fish into a true gourmet experience? The “Grill” blend will delight the meat lovers, while the “Classic” mix will add refined flavor to each dish.
You can chose a mix that will caress your taste buds in our Tourist Information center at Sončno nabrežje 4 and add the cherry on top your dinner parties. As they say at Fina Isolana: » To eat, drink and love each other. That is to live! «. To this, we add: » Bon Appetit! «.
We have come to the end of our blog journey through the field of edible wild plants. Their world is colorful, tasty and tempting, but as we've mentioned – always bring with you a touch of caution, a basket of knowledge, and don't forget to respect and return gratitude to the nature that abundantly gifts us throughout the year.
Health tip: Dandelion syrup
Pour 1,5 l of water on top of 300 g of dandelion flowers, boil and let simmer for 10 minutes on low heat. Strain the boil through a tin strainer or gauze, pour back into the container, and add 800-1000 g of sugar. You can use brown or coconut sugar as an alternative to the white. Boil the liquid again, add the juice of one lemon, or a suitable amount of citric acid. Fill smaller bottles with the warm liquid, seal tightly, turn upside down, wrap them in a cloth and let them cool.