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11 November 2013

Rosemary & Orange Tisane and A Day of Foraging for Wild Edible Plants

With all the wild plants growing on the grassy area around our house, I had been meaning to learn from a plant expert what are edible, how they can be cooked and with what they are delicious with. Nettles are bothersome because both my kids are always playing outside. Both of them, at the initial part of their discovery of nature, have had prickly contacts with the plant and well, you know how it is. They were howling with pain. But I know that those plants are very good with risotto which I have yet to try and it was confirmed in this tour that it definitely is!

But what about the different kinds of wild plants I always pry out from the soil and just think of as annoying little weeds that double my work in the garden and around the house? I know there's something more to them than being referred to as just bothersome weeds. And the day I went to Agriturismo Terrasabina in Poggio Mirteto with the  Edible Wild Plants Tour of Italy Food Roots changed all that.

For that tour, Luciano was our wild plant (and mushroom) expert. He grew up in the area where we went foraging, educated in the field and just rightfully perfect with what he was doing. He even sent us all home with a thick file of information about what we learned. It was Botany Class 101 all over again.

Before I move on about the foraging, let me tell you about this wonderful tisane I just prepared. It's simply made with fresh rosemary needles and a little bit of orange zest to give it a slight citrus hint. All untreated. Please remember not to use anything treated with chemicals! I got the recipe from one of the printed information we were provided by Serena of the agriturismo, only I added some orange zest for a bit of added flavor. It was great!

If not for this tour, I wouldn't have known that I can actually use the large rosemary shrub we have for drinking tisane, other than the usual flavoring in roasting which I mainly use it for. Frequent drinking of rosemary herbal tea can actually help combat stress & tiredness, improve the memory and help purify the liver, among other things. You can also use it as an aftershampoo for your hair to help darken them or you can also bathe with it in the bathtub, simply done by boiling some water with the needles then leaving it to rest for 15 - 30 minutes. My son already requested for a rosemary bath after he tried the rosemary & orange tisane. Our little guy likes it!

Going back to the tour.  As you can see from the pictures, we were fortunate to have a sunny and warm morning while foraging in the big grounds of Agriturismo Terrasabina. The agriturismo is run by Serena and her family. She and her grandmother (pictures below) concoct the meals in the agriturismo's restaurant and the various bottled food products that they have up for sale. They have different kinds of jams from their trees, preserved vegetables from their garden and laurel or bay leaf liqueur called lauro digestive which is the specialty of the area.

The grandmother and granddaughter team is a remarkable partnership of decades of experience of Nonna Olga and higher studies of enogastronomy of Serena. The agriturismo also has a number of rooms for those wishing to stay in a serene place immersed in nature and quality food. Leave it to them to fill you up with healthy meals!

The edible wild plants. Of course, the protagonist of the day was Luciano, who gave us valuable information about the wild plants in the area. Having the same flora were I live, what I learned had been really helpful and fun since I know now where to find food in my garden if I miss a trip to the market!

Just today, after a quick look on the ground, I was pointing to my husband the plants like malva, cicoria, lioli, wild leeks, wild rucola and informing him that soon, they will be dinner. I couldn't really distinguish if it was excitement or hesitance in his expression about the prospect of having garden "weeds" on his dinner plate. 

After foraging, identifying other wild plants and learning about their medicinal and culinary uses, we settled in the dining area of the agriturismo to have a lunch prepared by both Serena and her grandmother. All the ingredients were homemade from their own garden. 

The wild plants were used in making some of food we were served like the bruschette with ricotta and pimpinella or erba noce (my favorite for its nutty taste but unfortunately, I cannot find it in our garden), bruschette with ricotta and a mixture of wild plants, frittata with wild leeks and a plate of mixed wild plant salad with the wild fennel giving a delicious touch to the flavors.

The trip was organized by Italy Food Roots, a newly-established organization aiming to put together the farmers and food producers next to the consumers (that's us!) to help us get to know more about the food we eat especially how they are treated before they end up on our plates. We do have a lot of questions in our minds about food that only these food experts can answer with pride and experience, because this is what they do best. Their "Farm to Table" movement is our gain. Food tours like this gives us more confidence in what we eat because we know how they were handled, where they came from and the kind of people behind them. The farmers' passion and dedication to feeding us with quality food adds a great flavor to the finished products on our plates. 

The post came out quite long but I hope you liked it. It had been one fruitful morning foraging for wild plants with this group. Italy Food Roots conduct food tours outside Rome every weekend (usually Saturdays). Check out their site to see what kind of tours they have in the future. Their next tour is all about extra virgin olive oil.

Another weekend has gone by. I hope you all enjoyed it!

Rosemary & Orange Tisane  

Makes 1 cup
  • 300 ml. hot water 
  • 2 teaspoons fresh untreated rosemary needles, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon untreated orange zest 
  • honey (or any sweetener of your choice)
  1. Put the rosemary and orange zest in a tea strainer then put it in a cup.
  2. Pour the hot water in the cup. 
  3. Steep for 15 minutes then take away the tea strainer.