European Escapades

A Walk on the Wild Side




I've got a lovely bunch of wild asparagus
I’ve got a lovely bunch of wild asparagus.

With our HelpX hosts being knowledgeable in wild foods it was fortuitous timing on our part that being held in the local village on my birthday weekend, was a wild food talk and walk followed by a big evening get together to sample some of the delights we had picked that day. Sounded like an opportunity not to be missed as we headed to the Village hall to listen to a talk on wild foods in the area. It was in Italian but we had an interpreter in Heiko and lots of pretty pictures to accompany the talk. We even managed to identify some of the pictures by ourselves, well Frances did, but she is good with plants and stuff. After the talk we were presented with a large table full of plants and leaves that had already been picked by the organisers of the talk that we could examine and talk over to prepare us for the next day’s walk. We were quite surprised that there were so many people attending the event as we estimated around eighty to one hundred people in the hall and wondered if as many would be on the walk itself.

The Wild Walkers
The Wild Walkers.

We were not to be disappointed as the next day almost as many were there ready for the hike up into the mountains for a rendezvous at the local wine and olive oil producers for a small lunch and a tasting of the local wines and oil. People thronged the starting point with large wicker baskets and plastic carrier bags. There were people of all age groups and I wonder if we would have got the same mix of people for an event like this in the UK. After around fifteen minutes milling around there must have been a signal that I missed, and it seemed everyone was off marching up the road towards the vineyard.

Cooking Pancakes
Cooking Pancakes.

We picked so many edible plants including Dandelions, Sorrel, Nettles, Wild Onions, Fennel, Goosegrass, Mallow, Parsley and Rosemary. At one point when we had reached the vineyard and surrounding olive grove a few brave souls started on the wild seeded Lettuce and cabbages under the olive trees. It seems a practice here that you use the partly shaded areas of olive grove for your spring vegetables and I am sure at one point a few of the pickers ended up in someone’s vegetable patch, helping themselves to his supper. Noting this we thought we had better move along before we got caught up in the pilfering that seemed to be going on. It was a good move too, as further down the lane in the courtyard a large hot plate was on and the owner of the vineyard was busy cooking pancakes for his hungry guests. Poking our heads over the gathering crowd, we managed to grab a nearby plate and place it under the nose of the chef. Sure enough a warm delicious looking pancake was soon placed on our empty platter and we headed for the next table. Our plates were snatched eagerly away from us by the other server and a big dollop of pesto was smothered over the pancake, followed by a large splash of extra virgin olive oil. Expertly rolled up like a tortilla wrap it was then handed back to us for our eating pleasure. As we wandered off to find somewhere to sit and eat the tasty snack, I spied the table that was awash with opened wine bottles and cups. What could be better than a nice selection of local wines to help wash the food down with? We were all now sorted and in heaven as we sat under the pergola at a large table, dappled sunlight warming our smiling faces.

The wild food gatherers checking if it's good stuff
The wild food gatherers checking if it’s good stuff.

The evening was also an entertaining event as four long rows of tables greeted us as we entered the village hall. All laid out with cutlery and glasses and more bottles of the local wine. We were treated to a wild asparagus risotto to start followed by a selection of roasted meats accompanied by a selection of potatoes and wild greens. I know we didn’t forage the rice or kill the pigs, but as I have discovered it is always good to use the wild food as a base and add some other ingredients to the mix to really get the best out of them. Like the wild green soup we made, the addition of a turnip and some garlic to the mix really enhanced the dish. The dinner was finished off with apple fritters and a shot of the local Grappa. Someone must have been scrumping apples whist we were not looking I guess. Whilst we couldn’t understand most of what was being said, it was still a great atmosphere the entire evening with laughing and talking all around us. It made us feel part of the community if only for a short while and when the next day we walked up to our HelpX hosts home to say our farewells, we were tooted and waved at by a local we had met just the night before as he went pass in his small Piaggio van. We have since the first day felt welcome in Italy and we hope that as we travel this beautiful county to always feel that welcoming touch that is making our time in Italy so memorable.

The wild food evening meal
The wild food evening meal.

This entry was posted on Saturday, March 26th, 2011 at 6:01 pm and is filed under Travel Stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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