Ok, so we were supposed to be going to Alcantara Gorge in Sicily. A tourist trap of people funnelled through a rocky gorge for several hundred metres then back to their hotels. Grr.
Luckily, fate had its say. The unreliable local bus did not go to Alcantara as advertised, but instead dumped us out unceremoniously at Recanati. Not mentioned in any of the tourist itineraries.
Marty lay in a dragon tree whilst i scoped out the area. There was a sign pointing to Lidl. The area gave the impression of being a set out of The Walking Dead, which was kind of a relief after all the fashion boutiques of Taormina. (Fashion! Urghh!)
I actually really get off on these places, as its here in these in-between worlds that you find riches in the form of edible and medicinal plants. They’re kind of exciting too!
Myself and the kid traipsed along the edge of this ghost town. We got to an overgrown park next to a square. Marty found a pointed stick so we practised spear throwing. Until he started flinging it over the barbed wire into the military compound next door. I judged it was time to move on.
DRIED UP RIVERBED
I jumped down into this dried riverbed and snooped about for plant gold, whilst Marty made a firepit under the bridge.
A bit further on we got to a huge swathe of dense bamboo. Bamboo can be used as a building material and to make paper. You can eat the young shoots of most species, though some are sweeter than others!
Bamboo contains decent amounts of minerals such as potassium, calcium, zinc, copper and also vitamins A and E.
You need to boil it for 20 mins in salted water before eating it though! It’s toxic raw. Unless you’re a panda!
Milk Thistle is an incredibly useful and powerful medicinal plant. It contains silymarin, which protects the liver from damage. Milk thistle is even capable of saving the life of someone who’s eaten Death Cap Mushroom or another mushroom containing alpha-amanitin.
Obviously, the best cure is not to be unwary enough to eat that sort of stuff in the first place. If you have, a combination of activated charcoal drink and milk thistle extract will greatly increase your chances of survival.
It also works for hangovers!! And ‘real’ illnesses like diabetes.
Its easy to recognise as the leaves look like they’ve had milk poured all over them. Folk legend says this is the blessed milk of the Virgin Mary, but believe what you like!
To Make Milk Thistle Extract:
- Collect mature seed heads of milk thistle and dry them.
- Rub the seeds through a sieve to get rid of the white fluff.
- Grind the seeds in a coffee grinder or mill.
- Mix into vodka or other strong booze of at least 40% proof. Alchohol releases the silymarin.
- After 5 weeks your extract is ready to use!
Chenopodiums (Greens for the Pot!)
At the edge of the riverbed I found at least three types of Chenopodium. These plants are all edible, though they taste better if you blanch them in hot water as they contain saponins. Quinoa is a Chenopodium!
Chenopodium family plants often have triangular leaves and a soft, succulent fleshy texture. They are pretty high in protein too, for a plant. They have a slightly soapy taste when tasted raw. I really like the taste of them when cooked though!
You can eat the seeds of these plants as a gruel. If you really have to. It will keep you alive, if not happy.
Fat Hen(C.album) has a glittery whiteness on the bottom of its leaves. This plant was used as a pot herb, and as porridge, since prehistory!
Red Poppy & Wild Lettuce – Sedatives
If it’s a good night’s sleep you are looking for, (or some natural beta blockers the night before an exam, driving test or hot date), look no further than this dried-up riverbed in Recanati!
Red poppies (Papaver rhoeas) are mildly sedative. They’re not in the same league as their cousins the Opium Poppies, but they will help you chill out. Make a vodka tincture out of the fresh petals.
(If you want to avoid the after-effects of herbal vodka on your driving test, make a glycerite instead using vegetable glycerine.)
I in no way endorse drinking and driving…though you only need a few teaspoons for a dose.
Wild Lettuce (Lactuca serriola) is another good sedative. It is a relative of today’s commercial lettuce.
Lettuce is a great thing to eat to reduce sex drive, by the way! (If you want to avoid sexy married guy at work, etc. Or spike your partner so you can finish that book.)
Wild Lettuce has much greater concentrations of active sedative than farmed lettuce. It’s more bitter, too, with white milky sap. Squeeze out the sap and add the chopped up fresh stem and leaves to booze.
Wild lettuce has a row of small spines on the underside of each leaf, where the midrib is. Find it in waste places and path edges.
I found this highly nutritious member of the Cabbage family by the bridge. It likes wet feet, so check shallow water and damp places.
You can eat this delicious peppery salad crop raw as long as you stick to the bits out of the water. Sometimes the parts under water harbour liver fluke parasites from sheep.
Watercress contains 71% of your daily Vitamin C per 100g (raw). It’s also a good source of Vitamin B6, magnesium and calcium.
Just be sure it’s Watercress you’re getting and not Fool’s Watercress!
Watercress has smooth edges to its leaves, while Fool’s Watercress leaves have ragged edges like a wood saw. Watercress flowers are in one terminal head. Fool’s Watercress has umbels of several flower heads coming off one stalk.
Add these tasty peppery flowers and leaves to your dishes as a side salad. They also look fab if you are having a dinner party, BBQ, (or eating sandwiches in the rain outside of a food bank).
After all this bush bothering, it was time to head to the beach. We had already missed the first bus, so we ended up on a pebbly shore and climbed some rocks in the moody light.
It just goes to show – check out those derelict places. Who knows what you may find. (You might want to bring friends, some samurai swords and a first aid kit with you.)
Til next time
xx Hedgewitch Kat xx