Thursday, 15 April 2010

Wild and Edible

All along the edge of the olive groves and vineyards wild flowers are making their appearance.
Some of the wild flowers we can find in northern Europe, others are unique to this area. Quite a few of them are edible, and some of them have medicinal purposes. The following plants are very common, on any walk in the country side at this time of the year you'll come across them.

Allium ampeloprsum (Wild Leek)
Wild leeks can be used in the same way as the leeks bought in the supermarket. Wild leeks belong to the onion family which includes onions, garlic and spring onions and more. The characteristic smell of alliums is caused by the sulphur compounds; these have beneficial effects on the circulatory, digestive and respiratory systems.

Calendula arvensis (Marigold/Pot Marigold)
On my first spring in the Provence, walking along the road I noticed this small orange coloured flower, I touched it, it felt slightly sticky, it reminded me of a Marigold. I looked it up and discovered that indeed it was a Marigold, a Field Marigold (Calendula arvensis).
Although quite small it can be used the same way as its larger sister. The parts that are used are the flowers. It is a very well tried out herb that stimulates the liver, gall bladder, and uterus, soothes the digestive system, and clears infections. It is especially good for skin problems, reducing inflammation and healing damaged and irritated tissues. 1 tablespoon of fresh flower heads to one cup of 'just off the boil' water, steeped for 3 minutes can be drunk to soothes the digestive system or used for skin problems. Pregnant women should not use it internally as it stimulates the uterus.

Diplotaxis erucoides (False Rocket)
The leaves and flowers have a spicy flavour, close to the taste of mustard or pepper. The young shoots can be fried in batter.

Eryngium campestre (Field Eryngo)
The young leaves taste like artichokes.

Taraxacum officinale (Dandelion)
The leaves give a slightly bitter taste to salads. The flowers can be dipped in batter and deep fried. A syrup can be made with the flowers, it's called dandelion honey. It is very well known for stimulating the liver function.

Tragopogon pratensis (Salsify)
Principally it's the roots that are eaten, either steamed or pan fried, the young leaves can be cooked or eaten in salad, the flowers can be used to decorate dishes.

Bibliography: Sauvages et comestibles by Marie-Claude Paume, The RHS Encyclopedia of Herbs by Deni Bown

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