I started my wild pickings when I was a child, with my grandparents. Nowadays it’s not just a leisure time activity, picking wild plants has become something that I absolutely have to do. I specifically search out the qualities offered by wild plants, which are dependent on their living conditions and environment. These plants produce antioxidants to protect themselves from various dangers (insects, climate change, UV rays) and they take up minerals from the soil to ensure a range of functions (rigidity, cell exchanges).
Whenever plants are grown on soil which is over-cultivated, depleted and devoid of other plants and insects, increasingly they become starved of nutrients, vitamins and mineral salts, etc. and so our modern diet, even when it’s organic, is largely based on these nutritionally-deficient foodstuffs. Plants which have been intensively farmed may be big and look appetizing, but they’re full of water – and they lack nutrients… and flavour. On the other hand, wild plants are naturally high in mineral salts, chlorophyll, vitamins and antioxidants.
Today, long neglected so-called “wild” plants and vegetables have once again become popular for different reasons: they’re ecological, cost nothing, encourage simplicity and culinary creativity and are rich in nutrients. This doesn’t mean a return to nature and only eating wild plants – besides this would be impossible because there aren’t enough to go round! On the other hand, using wild plants to supplement our diet is a boon. They offer us a secret plant alchemy, vibrant, vibrating and vital for our bodies to function optimally. For example, these little herbs will cleanse and regenerate the body restoring it with minerals and eliminating fat and acids which take too long to be expelled.
So it’s up to us to gradually re-learn the art of identifying healthy and atoxic wild plants and how to pick and prepare them.
My recipe of the month
My nutritional advice
Peas are good for our health because of their many minerals, trace elements, vitamins B and C, and fibre, especially when fresh. They also contain two antioxidant pigments which are vital for healthy retinas. The arrival of fresh peas is eagerly awaited in spring, but don’t wait too long – the pea season is short as they’re only available from May to July.
Cherries generally come fully into season in June. They are known for their antioxidant properties and also for being a good source of vitamin C and carotene. Cherries are high in fibre and potassium, which means they have diuretic properties and improve bowel transit.
My wild pickings
Comfrey is a plant which is sometimes listed as a forgotten vegetable. The leaves and roots are edible and although not everyone is always agreed upon the merits of the taste of its roots, its leaves on the other hand are known for their flavour which is reminiscent of fish. What’s more, comfrey leaves are high in proteins, vitamin B12 (which vegetarians often lack), silica and potassium. However please do take care as comfrey, and its roots in particular, contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which if eaten daily over an extended period are toxic for the liver.
Cooking with comfrey
The most tender, youngest leaves can be eaten in salads, on their own or combined with a variety of young salad leaves. Once the leaves are a little more mature, they can be cooked like spinach and added to soups, quiches, crêpes or stuffing. The stems and stalks with large leaves can also be cooked and eaten like cardoons or Swiss chard stalks. Also worth trying are fried or bread-crumb fried versions (the leaves are coated in fritter batter): cooked this way, rather oddly, they’re similar to fillets of sole, both to the eye and to the palate.