On my recent trip to Sicily I couldn’t help bothering the local bushes for edible native plants. There’s some that are great for fiber too. It’s just a shame I didn’t have the camp kitchen or I’d have experimented with some recipes.
First stop was the local park, ‘Comune de Taormina’. There were some fantastic cranky old follies made of what looked like driftwood and random bricks. Unfortunately we were not allowed to climb on them…
Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia sps)
This cactus is everywhere. It has flat green paddle-shaped leaves and pinky flowers that pop out on top of them. I’ve already made the fruits into sorbet in Crete (see previous post for recipe). Both the fruits (tunas) and leaves (nopales or pads) are edible.
Don’t do what I did here. I really should have known better than to try this…(my son refused. There’s no flies on that boy.)
Both the pads and the fruits are protected by tiny spines that are like fibreglass stuck in your mouth and face. If I’d had my wood knife I could have cut away all the outside surface and I would have got away with it. It’s hard to take large knives on planes though. They tend to get funny about it.
Another thing you can do is burn off all the spines by holding the fruit or pad over a fire. Another thing we were missing, being in a hotel!
Prickly Pear pads can be made into salads or stuffed with cheese and onion and grilled. The fruits can be made into jelly, juice, sorbet, and lemonade to name a few.
The pads and fruits contain calcium, amino acids, Vitamins C, K, A, potassium, fiber, riboflavin and lots of water. Like 85%. This makes them handy if you are short on drinking water supplies.
Lots of different species. Some have sheets of fibre hanging off their trunk. You can make these into mats, rope, or even a skirt to cover your modesty!
The small dates on the Pygmy Date Palm and other bigger date palms are edible. There’s only a thin layer of fruit on the P.D.P., but it’s full of sugar. Great if you need energy. You can tap palm tree trunks for sap and make lethally strong home-brew.
Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo)
The Strawberry Tree is not related to strawberry plants. It does have sweet, tasty spherical fruits which look like knobbly stress balls though! The fruits go pink to red when ripe. You can just eat them straight off the tree.
The fruits have 3 times more Vitamin C for their weight than an orange. You can help treat urinary infections with an infusion of Strawberry Tree root, leaves and fruits.
Stone Pine (Pinus pinea)
I was over the moon to find Stone Pine cones in the park. These trees have high crowns which makes it difficult (if not impossible) to reach the cones. You kind of have to wait til they fall. These are the ‘pine nuts’ you can buy in Tescos! (Or Aldi, if you can’t afford Tescos).
Stone pine seeds are really nutritious. They contain 19g of fat per 28g of dry nuts, which makes them a great survival food. They’ve also got a good amount of protein, magnesium and phosphorus.
Japanese soldiers on the run in WW2 survived for years on pine nuts, mushrooms and whatever else they could find in their local forest. I managed to winkle out three Stone Pine seeds for planting later.
Dragon Tree (Dracaena draco)
This fat-trunked tree has spiny leaves. It has blood-red sap which is used in folk medicine to treat skin conditions. The sap has antimicrobial properties. It can be used topically (externally) on ulcers and sores.
The sap is also used as incense, paint, and in spiritual practices such as Vodou.
You can’t really eat it though!
Bird Of Paradise Flower (Strelitzia reginae)
Last but not least, let’s finish with a pretty flower. Bird Of Paradise flowers do what they say on the tin. They look fab!
There’s so many Med Eds I’m going to need to split them into a 3 part series. Up next – what we found in the dried-up riverbed in Recanati!
xx Hedgewitch Kat xx