Winter wild plants: properties for health and uses in the kitchen

Winter wild plants: properties for health and uses in the kitchen

Borage, dandelion and nettle. What they contain, their food and medicinal uses and how to prepare them

Index

  • Spontaneous and edible plants of winter
  • Properties for health
  • Borage
    • What it contains
    • Food and medicinal uses
    • Uses in the kitchen
  • Dandelion
    • What it contains
    • Food and medicinal uses
    • Uses in the kitchen
  • Nettle
    • What it contains
    • Food and medicinal uses
    • Uses in the kitchen

Spontaneous and edible plants of winter

Walking in the countryside, intoxicated by the scents, picking wild leaves with extraordinary properties for health: a precious source of well-being, at no cost, which does not harm the ecosystem and avoids food waste. Even winter provides us with wild plants, despite being "A season of vegetative rest, during which the generating energy of the plants dozes off, withdraws, folding in on itself, waiting for the strength of the heat", explain Maurizio and Sandro Di Massimo, authors of the book “The leaves. Culture and health from wild plants ”(Aboca), a volume rich in information which is proposed as an invitation to learn about the main spontaneous plants for medicinal and food use.

"Among the classic 'field herbs' of winter – the experts continue, there are bitterness (Picris echioides and Picris hieracioides), scarpigno (Sonchus oleraceus and Sonchus asper), hunter (Reichardia picroides), the wool-maker's thistle (Dipsacus fullonum), the favagello (Ranunculus ficaria), the adicchiella (Crepis vesicaria, Crepis sancta, C. bursifolia, C. lentodontoides, etc.), the borage (Borago officinalis), the dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) and the inevitable nettle (Urtica dioica) ".

Properties for health

It is estimated that in the world there are about 300,000 different species of plants and that only a percentage between 0.5 and 10% has been subjected to an accurate analysis in order to be able to establish with certainty the presence of biochemical compounds useful from the therapeutical point of view. . Today, however, we know that there are many plants that represent a precious source of active ingredients, exploited by traditional medicine and in part by the modern pharmacopoeia, for human health. "As for the properties, most of the so-called 'field herbs', in addition to being easy to find and having a pleasant taste (even the most bitter ones, if wisely mixed with other plants with a more 'sweet' flavor) generally play a 'stomachic, digestive, cholagogue, choleretic, hepato-protective, purifying, antioxidant, hypocholesterolemic and mildly laxative action ”, assure the authors of the book.

Easy to cook, they are a precious source of fiber, enzymes, vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids and active ingredients with specific nutritional and health properties. Many wild fruits and herbs, for example, contain bitter principles that help digestive processes and antioxidant substances capable of counteracting the negative effects of free radicals on a cellular level.

We know the most common and easily identifiable ones in the autumn-winter period: borage, dandelion and nettle, with descriptions from the volume written by the Di Massimo brothers in which each single plant is accompanied by one or more photographic images and a descriptive card in which they are reported general information, history, myths, legends and particular uses, food and medicinal uses.

Borage

What it contains

Borage is an annual herbaceous plant, 20-60 cm tall, with an erect stem, branchy at the top, fleshy, succulent, entirely hollow. Contains allantoin, mucilage, flavonoids, pyrrolizidine alkaloids (lycopsamine, intermedin, amabiline, supinine, etc.), tannins, resins, traces of essential oil, polyunsaturated fatty acids (seeds), vitamin C, magnesium, calcium and potassium.

Food and medicinal uses

The mucilages, of which it is very rich, for their emollient properties have an anti-inflammatory and refreshing action, useful for treating various disorders of the respiratory, gastro-intestinal and urinary systems, while for external use, in the form of a poultice, they are indicated to relieve skin irritations, eczema, boils, burns, sores and insect bites. The purifying effect of borage is strengthened by the synergistic action of its diaphoretic and diuretic properties: this helps to eliminate toxins through the skin and urine. Attention, however: researches on pyrrolizidine alkaloids present on this plant have confirmed that its administration at high and continuous doses over time (cumulative action) can cause hepatotoxic and carcinogenic effects.

Uses in the kitchen

The leaves, possibly harvested before the formation of the stem, are consumed boiled, alone or combined with other vegetables, seasoned with extra virgin olive oil or sautéed (with butter or with garlic, oil and chilli). They are also used in the preparation of omelettes, soups, soups, filled with ravioli, savory pies. They are particularly tasty passed in batter and fried and to enhance their flavor just wisely wrap them around anchovy fillets. The tender leaves, on the other hand, whose taste resembles that of cucumber, are eaten raw in salads (it is better to chop them because of the thick hairiness that could be annoying on the palate) or mixed with yogurt or creamy fresh cheeses.

Dandelion

What it contains

It is a perennial herbaceous plant that grows in uncultivated grassy places, in wooded clearings, in ruderal and subruderal environments, along the edges of roads and country paths. The pharmacological action of this plant is due to numerous active ingredients, among which the presence of taraxacin, taraxin, taraxasterol, sitosterol, lactupicrin, choline, organic acids, inulin, flavonoids, carotenoids (lutein and violaxanthin), substances tannic and resinous, mucilage, vitamins A, B, C and D, enzymes and mineral salts (including potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc).

Food and medicinal uses

Dandelion is an elective remedy in the treatment of digestive and renal functional problems, capable of stimulating the production of gastric juices, the excretion of bile from the liver, and of exercising a diuretic and mildly laxative activity. Due to its strong purifying action (it favors the elimination of toxins and metabolic waste) it is used in the classic spring detoxifying treatments. Furthermore, experimental studies seem to hypothesize an antitumor activity of this plant and a potential anti-inflammatory action capable of counteracting even severe forms of arthritis.

Uses in the kitchen

From a food point of view, the basal rosettes, collected when they are still tender before the formation of the flower stem, have a particular, pleasantly bitter taste. They are excellent eaten raw in mixed salads or cooked, mixed with other vegetables and seasoned with extra virgin olive oil or sautéed in various ways (with garlic, oil and chilli, with olives or anchovies). They are used in the preparation of soups, soups, omelettes, risottos and fillings for savory pies, calzones and wraps. The flowers can be added to salads and omelettes, while with the petals alone, cooked over low heat with water, sugar, lemon and orange juice, an excellent syrup is prepared to accompany fresh cheeses, yogurt and desserts.

Nettle

What it contains

Most people show an innate aversion to nettle, due to the unpleasant inconvenience it causes when it is inadvertently touched: the entire surface of the plant is affected by a thick hairiness with a stinging effect. But no one can deny its usefulness in the medical and food fields. The whole plant contains numerous compounds, including chlorophyll, organic acids (formic, gallic, phenolic and silicic), vasoactive and proinflammatory substances (including histamine and acetylcholine), flavonoids (rutin, isoquercitrin, isoramnetin and campferol), essential oil, carotene, tannic substances, sterols (beta-sitosterol, stigmasterol and campesterol), lignans, traces of vitamins C, A, B2 and K, potassium, silicon, iron, calcium, magnesium, copper and manganese. The seeds contain unsaturated fatty acids, especially linoleic acid (omega 6 class).

Food and medicinal uses

The juice, obtained from the buds harvested in mid-flowering, is an excellent remedy against dandruff and hair loss, while the decoction is indicated as a gastro-intestinal refreshing and adjuvant in the treatment of anemia. In the herbal field, this plant is highly regarded for its haemostatic, anti-inflammatory, astringent, antidiarrheal, diuretic, purifying and remineralizing properties (use the infusion or cooking water).

Uses in the kitchen

The tender leaves and young shoots are boiled, alone or together with other herbs, seasoned with extra virgin olive oil or sautéed in a pan with garlic or butter. They are also very popular in the preparation of soups, soups, risottos, omelettes, lasagna, quiches, croutons and various fillings. A real delicacy are the tortelli and ravioli with ricotta and nettle, seasoned with extra virgin olive oil, sage and pine nuts. The cooking water can be recycled to cook other foods or used for its purifying and detoxifying action. With the more tender leaves, finely chopped, you can flavor salads and sauces with herbs.

Tag: Plants

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