In spring and summer around the corner, the beautiful days, the sun and the walks bring with them the irrepressible desire to collect the fragrant herbs and flowers that with their sparkling colors cover green meadows in the countryside and valleys. Even for those of us a little less experienced in botanical recognition it is still a wonderful opportunity, just get organized with one of the many pocket guides, a pair of scissors and a cloth bag or better still a basket to give yourself joy and satisfaction that certainly a a little bit of insecurity can certainly not prevent us from trying since the remedy for that is there before our eyes: beautiful images and detailed descriptions!
Don't store avocado like this: it's dangerous
In spring and with summer around the corner, the beautiful days, the sun and the walks bring with them the irrepressible desire to collect fragrant herbs and flowers that with their sparkling colors cover green meadows in the countryside and valleys. Even for those of us a little less experienced in the botanical recognition it is still a wonderful opportunity, just get organized with one of the many pocket guides, for an pair of scissors and a small cloth bag or better yet a basket to give oneself joy and satisfaction that certainly a little insecurity can certainly not prevent us from trying since the remedy for that is there before our eyes: beautiful images and detailed descriptions!
La collection of edible wild herbs then it allows us to regain possession of the value of nature reminding us that the crops came only later and that once, a long time ago our ancestors collected what the territory in which they lived gave them without the need to cultivate acres and acres monoculture, thus avoiding affecting the biodiversity so important for each species on this planet.
Precisely for this reason, if among the plants that I will describe the existence of the plant itself will be affected, I will also gladly provide tips on how not to affect its existence as a species in the territory.
The collection of spontaneous edible plants will then remind us that once upon a time it was the seasons that regulated food and that it was necessary to be provident and like good ants organize oneself for times of lesser abundance.
However, although we do not have the need to stock up for the winter, we can certainly obtain excellent ones wild herbs whether to eat raw in salads or lightly steamed or perhaps added to flour, omelettes or soups or at most for some you can always decide to dry their leaves, flowers or seeds.
Finally a suggestion: if you have doubts about the recognition of a certain plant take a nice photograph of it and maybe cut a part of it, keep it and so once you get home you can look for the name with more criteria; also remember that botanical recognition is not only not something that you learn in ten minutes but must be very accurate as there are very similar plants but with totally opposite effects (this is the case of many species that they have toxic "doubles") but do not worry very often it happens for plants belonging to the same family but in any case the rules that always apply if in doubt, it is better not to collect them. A trick then is to learn how to recognize a certain plant by waiting for it to bloom, this is because the flower helps a lot in recognition and that is why it is important to go for herbs in this period, rather than to collect everything we would like to learn to recognize them and therefore be able to harvest them next year with ease!
Also if I can suggest a method that has taught me a lot is that of creation of a personal herbarium: I created my first herbarium with the help of my aunt at the age of 8 and since that day I have never stopped. Now the herbaria have become 2, very large and cataloged for pretty good and soon they will become 3. It is not only a wonderful way to approach knowledge but it is also very useful when you grow up because you understand that nature is not made only by those 10 variety of fruit and vegetables that are grown all over the world for commercial purposes but that out there among meadows and fields there is a whole variety of rich and much more adapted species than we imagine.
Then they even exist spontaneous herb recognition courses, so if you are interested in another good method is to attend one.
The most common, safe and easy to recognize are certainly, in my experience, the 10 plants that I am going to describe to you but first always remember that in order not to make a mistake you must always refer to the Latin name and not to the vulgar one, furthermore you begin to learn to recognize two or three before moving on to recognize the others:
The real chicory (Cichorium intybus)
It is a very common plant in the plains, it blooms in summer and the harvest takes place before flowering; of it you eat both the leaves (raw or cooked) and the young sprouts in salads preparing the so-called “puntarelle alla romana” obviously for those who are vegan or vegetarian by replacing the poor anchovies with delicious salted capers.
Impossible not to remember that once with the chicory root was prepared an excellent substitute for coffee.
The burdock (Arctium bur)
It is very common along the ditches but also in the mountains at low altitudes. It blooms in the summer, the root, the flower stem, the petioles and the leaves are collected and used. Once the root has been harvested, it is good practice to spread the seeds all around the area (detaching them from the plant). The root is large in 2-3 year old plants while in smaller plants it is good to collect only the leaves and petioles as the root that we would find would be really too small. The root should be steamed for a long time and then seasoned with simple extra virgin olive oil. The flower stem (before flowering) must be cleaned of the leaves and the external fibrous part and then cooked too. Finally, the stalks can be cooked and fried with a simple batter of chickpea flour and ice-cold beer. Its flavor is very reminiscent of the artichoke.
The wild carrot (Daucus carota)
It is very common especially in stony places and often present in large expanses; blooms in summer. It is eaten both the tap root and the leaves, both raw in salads and added to soups or broths. It is therefore good if you choose to collect the roots, always leave some plants in the area, thus preserving their presence on the territory.
The dandelion or dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Its bitter, high iron leaves are edible and excellent. The rosettes of the basal leaves are eaten cooked and seasoned with a drop of extra virgin olive oil.
The nettle (Urtica dioica)
Perhaps the most common plant in vegetable gardens and meadows, close to walls and in very sunny areas, it blooms in summer. Its flavor is reminiscent of spinach, it has a high content of vitamin C, iron, mucilage; it should be eaten cooked in salads, or added to soups or soups or even used for stuffing with ravioli or in flour and omelettes.
Plantain (of plantain -Plantago- exist many species several)
Widespread to edges of the trails, in mountain meadows and uncultivated areas; it is excellent eaten cooked in association with other herbs or using its younger raw leaves, collecting the most tender rosettes to make in salads or in flour or omelettes. Being a perennial it is possible to harvest it all year round and given its diffusion there is no fear of collecting it in such quantities as to compromise its survival.
Borage (Borago officinalis)
It is an annual species that lives along the edges of country roads and uncultivated fields. The whole plant is used: the most tender leaves are collected before flowering and are eaten boiled and seasoned, or raw in salads or still used in risottos, ravioli, flour or omelettes or the larger whole breaded and fried. The borage flowers are collected together with the new shoots and are used raw for mixed salads or to decorate dishes.
Could be dried for the winter.
The mallow (Malva sylvestris)
La wild mallow is very common, mainly used for respiratory tract and mucous membranes, blooms in spring and autumn; you eat the cooked leaves added together with other herbs in soups or the flowers and raw young leaves in salads.
Wild fennel (Foeniculum sylvestre)
It blooms in July and August, it is eaten both raw in salads and cooked in stews and as an accompaniment to second courses. The tender sprouts are used in soups or eaten raw in pinzimonio. It is also possible to collect the seeds in late summer to make liqueurs or herbal teas.
La margherita pratolina
Daisies are very common, the most tender leaves are used, collected before flowering, in salads or soups, combined with other vegetables. The daisy flowers stimulate diuresis and have a detoxifying action: to enhance their purifying properties, the ideal is to mix them with other spontaneous plants such as dandelion, nettle and chicory.
Photos and texts: KIA - Carmela Giambrone