FORAGING in ABRUZZO and ITALY

Foraging is the centuries old practice of finding wild foods through hunting and gathering. In Italy and Abruzzo in particular it was a necessity of survival during periods of lean times, poverty and war. In Abruzzo an abundance of wild foods are found on trees (fruit and nuts), in the soil (truffles), in the fields and woods, along the side of the roads, in the mountains of the Apennines…
My father often recounts stories of his youth in Abruzzo in the 1930’s where he would be sent out to collect wild greens which grew in the fields, especially in the olive groves.
A basket full of mixed greens such as wild silverbeet (bietola selvaggio), wild spinach (spinaci selvaggi) and wild chicory (cicoria) would be brought back to the kitchen and cooked up, then tossed through hot oil, garlic and some chilli.
Or the cooked greens would be added to cooked cornmeal damper which was crumbled through the vegetables. This is known as pizz’ e fojje and along with many traditional dishes in Abruzzo, there is a definite strong revival and appreciation of  this ‘poor man’s food’ in many restaurants.
Meat was rarely eaten
by the poor farmers, but seen as a special treat reserved for feast days – Christmas, Easter, a christening or wedding.
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Nettles (ortica) which grow profusely in Abruzzo.
When I am in Abruzzo one of my special memories I treasure from my life in the village is going out for long walks in the countryside with my cousin and depending on the season we bring home bunches and bags full of wild asparagus, borage leaves, nettles, wild spinach, silverbeet, sow’s thistle (cascigne) or we pick sour cherries, walnuts, blackberries, elderflowers… I have fun creating the traditional dishes, jams and even liqueur like ratafia with the sour cherries.
It is all great research for my collection of Abruzzese recipes I am working on.
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Fried Borage leaves
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Wild asparagus