Wild plants and herbs
Greek Calabria’s edible plants.
Greek Calabria is of great interest to ethnobotanists, that is, to researchers who study the use of plants by the inhabitants of certain areas. These scientists belong to a number of fields: pharmacology, biology, anthropology and others. On the occasion of a research project funded by the European Union, aimed at studying the wild plants used in the cuisine here and how they may contribute towards a healthy diet, a group of researchers met in the hamlet of Gallicianò. The aim was to “record” and write down as many ideas as possible to hand on to future generations, lest this knowledge and knowhow be lost.
Anàpordo (Onopordum illyricum)
This is an herbaceous plant of between 1 and 2 metres tall, with purple flowers; it is found in vacant lots or fields where the ground is rather fertile. It has antibacterial and hypotensive properties. Its root is eaten raw.
Andràcla (Portulaca oleracea)
Pursley or little hogweed,
This annual plant has oval leaves and small yellow flowers. It grows particularly close to walls and ruins, in fallow fields or orchards. It has purifying, diuretic properties and is a rich source of omega-3. The flowers and the stems are eaten raw in salads, seasoned with oil and vinegar.
Asparago selvatico della Calabria (Asparagus acutifolius)
The Asparagus acutifolius, or wild asparagus is a perennial, rhizomatous, herbaceous plant belonging to the family of the Liliaceae; it is 30 to 150 centimetres in height, has a bitter taste, a distinctive smell and is bright green in colour. It grows in uncultivated pastures, by dry stone walls and in oak forests. The entire fresh spring-time shoots of the plant are boiled and are used as an ingredient in omelettes, as side dishes and hors d’oeuvres; but they are also preserved in oil. The asparagus has diuretic, detoxifying, slimming, anti-inflammatory properties, especially of the kidneys.
Carrafùcia (Lotus edulis)
is a perennial herbaceous plant, very similar to clover, whose leaves contain a kind of curved sickle-shaped legume that is eaten raw as a snack.
Cavuraci (Silena vulgaris)
is a perennial herbaceous plant with recognisable, white, oval, cup-shaped flowers. It has diuretic properties and can be eaten raw or cooked, mixed with other herbs and vegetables.
Cicoria selvatica calabrese
Wild Calabrian chicory
This plant, which blooms between July and September, belongs to the Asteraceae family, is a perennial herb and is easily found on the sides of the roads and in the fields. It is a perennial herbaceous plant, with horizontal or vertical stalks; its flower heads are numerous, sessile or pedunculated. It varies from 20 to 120 centimetres in height and it is very bitter to taste. The leaves and roots of chicory are used in cuisine and have cleansing properties. Once boiled, they are delicious when sautéed with olive oil, breadcrumbs and cheese, but they are also used as a preserve. During the Second World War, roasted and ground, chicory was used as a substitute for coffee.
Costardeddhe (Hypochoeris radicata)
is a perennial herb with yellow flowers, endowed with purifying properties. It takes root and grows in sandy, dry soils. It can be eaten boiled and sautéed.
Cùcuddho (Chrysanthemum segetum)
is a glabrous, annual herbaceous plant with yellow flowers. It grows in fields, vineyards and olive groves. The tenderest parts are eaten raw as a snack.
Gabbuina (Borago officinalis)
is an annual herbaceous plant covered with coarse bristle and a thick silvery, woolly coating; its flowers are deep blue. In folk medicine it is used to cure a cough. Its leaves are very good in salads or just barely boiled.
Gaddhazzìda (Reichardia picroides)
is a glabrous perennial herb, with yellow flowers. It grows on rocks and walls. The leaves of basal rosette are eaten raw. In folk medicine chopped fresh leaves are used to treat toothache.
Gattinarìa (Reseda alba)
is a robust annual herbaceous plant, with a central stem, small leaves and white flowers. It grows in dry, sandy soils. It is eaten raw in salads, using the tenderest leaves, but, given its bitter taste it is mixed with other less bitter herbs.
Grospartù (Chondrilla juncea)
is a perennial herb, with yellow flowers and basal leaves in rosette formation. It grows in uncultivated fields. It has antioxidant properties and is eaten in raw or cooked salads, dressed with oil and vinegar.
Màsaro (Foeniculum vulgare)
is a perennial herb with a characteristic aroma. It has a long stem and large leaves with umbrella-like flowers with a yellow corolla. Known as a remedy in digestive disorders, it is much used in cooking as a flavour enhancer and its fruit is added to some sausages.
Paparìna (Papaver rhoeas)
is an annual herbaceous plant with an erect stem, long leaves and scarlet flowers with black patches. It grows wild in cornfields and close to ruins. It is eaten cooked and in fritters. In folk medicine it is used to treat coughs and mild sleep disorders.
Pricaddhìda (Lactuca viminea)
is a biennial herbaceous plant, with a stem of about one metre and yellow flowers. It is a bitter herb eaten with other sweeter ones.
Rigano (Origanum heracleoticum)
is a perennial herb with an erect tall stem and spade-shaped flowers. Oregano is gathered and then left to dry in a cool, shady place. It provides cuisine with a highly-appreciated spice.
Russéddha (Urospermum dalechampii)
Smooth golden fleece
is a perennial herb with leafy tuft, erect stem, and pale yellow flowers. Its tenderest leaves are eaten raw as a snack or in a salad.
Sculìmbri (Scolymus hispanicus)
Common golden thistle
is a perennial herb, 30 to 80 centimetres tall, with golden yellow flowers. The central part of the leaf is used in cuisine, in particular in the preparation of the dish called sculìmbri me te lasagne [Thistles with lasagne].
Spèlendro (Apium nodiflorum)
is a perennial herb which smells of celery. It is 30 to 80 centimetres tall, with medium-small leaves. It grows in areas near water: ponds, ditches and small springs. It is eaten both raw and cooked with fresh onions, dressed with oil and vinegar.
Suddha (Hedysarum coronarium)
is a perennial herbaceous plant, 30 to 80 centimetres tall and with many branches on its stem. Its flowers form a purple-red corolla. It grows in dry meadows and it is possible to suck the sap from the shaft.
Zuccho (Sonchus oleraceus)
is a perennial green herb with yellow flowers. It grows in fallow gardens, vineyards and olive groves in. Its tenderest leaves are eaten as a salad.