Foraging in Garfagnana

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April has started and Gourmet30 is about to start, my travel project through Italian delights during the year of my 30th birthday.

The idea of this travel, and the whole blog, arises to show and share a personal path discovering the Italian quality-ingredients and delights, and cooking both traditional and creative dishes with these products.

In this first post, I will share a great experience of foraging in Garfagnana, a beautiful highland in the Northern part of Tuscany.

The last weekend of March the first edition of “Selvaggia” (wild herb festival) took place in Castelnuovo Garfagnana. Thanks to this event I had the opportunity on Saturday morning to attend a foraging lesson, specific for wild herbs that usually grow in that area. The lesson was held by Andrea Elmi, one of three members of a local and newborn food company (Maestà della Formica).

Here below, some of the herbs I learnt how to recognise:

Wild chicory, bitter and used both raw in salad, or cooked in soups or infusions. Also the flower, the dandelion, is edible and Andrea and his colleagues use to produce a sort of honey out of this herb; they boil these yellow flowers into a sirop made with sugar and water for some hours and you should get a thick, sugary liquid, similar to honey.

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Salad burnet, so aromatic, it’s used also in some cocktails.

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Another type of Chicory, bitter taste

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Ribleaf, whose inflorescences taste like mushrooms.

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Wild carrot. In the photo it is not so evident, but the tuber is whity and small, with a remarkable carrot scent. It has to be cooked before eating, to soften the fibers.

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Valerian salad, so delicate.

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Sorrel. Slightly sour, it reminds a lemon.

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Wild garlic. It looks like an onion, but it smells and tastes like garlic. Andrea and his colleagues prepared an amazing cream using wild garlic, ribleaf and daisy leaves.

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At the end of the excursion, we had a good breakfast with the tasty bread from Garfagnana and the smooth and genuine jams by the Maestà della Formica: Apple and Fir (fir needles marinated with sugar during summer); Apple and caramelised Violets; Pear and Hay and “Crema di Alpeggio”, tecnically a dulce de leche. Apples and pears are bought from local growers and the jams are prepared using the fruit with its skin. As a result of this combination, the products are extremely tasty and genuine.

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This post is also available in: Italian

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