I don’t know how common a sight this is in other countries, but my childhood memories include watching my parents – alone or with friends – walking slowly through fields slightly stooped over and gaze fixed intently on the ground, casually chattering in between stopping and prying greens from the ground with the short-handled knife in their hands.
The image evokes nostalgia only because in my mind it evokes my parents – but the sight is still common around Greece. This is because it’s a big tradition to eat horta, edible wild greens. They are part of our many vegan recipes. We make salads, pies and also serve the greens as a vegetable on it’s own with lemon and olive oil. It’s one of my favorite foods.
Those of us who grew up in the Greek provinces or on the islands are lucky enough to go foraging for wild greens. Chervil, shepherd’s needles, nettles, chard, sow thistle, wild mallow, wild fennel, and wild rocket are just a few of the edible greens found on hillsides and mountain slopes.
Greens are among the most healthy and nutritious foods you can eat – and what’s best is that they grow wild, with no help at all. For centuries, the Greeks have valued them for their medicinal properties and their suggested benefits for conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure and as a source of antioxidants.
But these glorious greens are also a gastronomic treat, with flavors ranging from bitter to salty and sweet and textures ranging from tender to crisp. Greens pair well with almost everything – meat, fish, pasta – as they enhance rather than overpower the flavors of the other ingredients.
Wild greens are both seasonal and local. You’ll find different ones in different regions at different times of the year. Greens, of course, are most plentiful in spring, from March to early May. This is best time to forage for wild greens, especially for savory pies. While tradition dictated greens be picked wild, today many of the more popular ones like amaranth and chard are cultivated.
I hope you will join me on Poros for a lovely walk, enjoying our breathtaking views and bringing home baskets of wild greens to put in our salads, pies and vegetable dishes! This are some examples of the greens we can find.
Wild anise is also growing on my farm every year in the spring. We use it for making pies and salads.
In Greece we just love our horta. On the next blog we will create a wonderful dish together!