Now the fields are green and the Cyprus countryside is full of them: wild edible plants. Weeds, that is, although that word is rather derogatory, as most wild plants are edible and they are a powerhouse of health! In fact, the Cyprus countryside these months is a free organic vegetable market! Mallow, white mustard, nettles, wild lettuce, even asparagus, grow all over the place, ready for picking. These wild greens are most delicious to eat, and a real boost to our health. Take mallows for instance, these are the plants with the big round leaves that grow on just about every roadside. Of course, it’s best not to pick plants next to the road but go a bit further into the fields to pick clean, uncontaminated plants. In Cyprus mallow is mainly eaten boiled with an olive oil and lemon juice dressing. The water in which it was boiled is an excellent herbal drink to soothe the throat. The boiled plant can be used in pies, egg dishes and soups. Mallow has anti-inflammatory, astringent, laxative and diuretic properties. Mallow is one of the most soothing herbs we can find in Cyprus. Tea made from the dry leaves, stems and flowers are an excellent remedy for dry cough, stomach ulcers, inflammation and constipation.
Wild asparagus is another delectable delicacy. It takes a little skill to spot them in the spiny bush that protects them, but that’s all part of the fun when it comes to foraging wild foods. The asparagus are the young shoots of the plant, they contain vitamin A, B and C and are very rich in minerals. Medicinally wild asparagus is a powerful diuretic, its consumption helps in prostate enlargement, urinary problems, kidney stones, gout, arthritis and rheumatism. Asparagus also helps to lower blood pressure, stimulates and nourishes the liver and pancreas and helps in fluid retention. Furthermore, it lowers blood sugar levels, kills parasites and soothes the intestines. It increases milk flow in breastfeeding women. The seeds of the plant are helpful in male impotence. Do not eat asparagus if you have inflammation in the urinary system, because it will likely worsen the pain. A traditional way to eat wild asparagus is fried with spring onions and egg. The shoots soften and are less bitter if you put them in a bowl of boiling water with salt for 2 minutes before frying.
White mustard plant is another health booster we can find literally everywhere, with its beautiful yellow flowers. You should only pick the young shoots and tender leaves, with the flower still in bud. Traditionally in Cyprus this plant is eaten boiled, served with an olive oil and lemon juice dressing, but you can add the leaves to egg dishes, make a veggie lasagne or add the young leaves to a salad. The plant is a rich source of vitamins and minerals and an ideal winter food, as it has a warming effect on the body and has expectorant properties, making it an ideal healing food in coughs and colds. It also ‘cleanses the blood’ and should be an integral part of a winter detox diet. It gives energy and nourishes the entire body.
Stinging nettle really is one of the most nutritious and medicinal plants. Nettle is very rich in minerals , especially iron, and is the best natural iron supplement, as all of it gets absorbed by the body. It also contains vitamin A, C and K. to use nettle in cooking we pick only the young tender shoots. Nettle makes an excellent soup, as all the healing properties stay preserved. At Cyherbia we serve soup made with all 3 of the above wild greens, it has become a favourite with visitors. Tea made from nettle relieves a number of health problems such as arthritis, asthma, bladder infections, bronchitis, kidney stones, laryngitis, prostate enlargement and seasonal allergies, as the plant contains natural antihistamines. Externally it is a remedy against hair loss, oily hair and dandruff. In Germany today stinging nettle is sold as an herbal medicine for prostate diseases and as a diuretic. It is a common ingredient in other herbal medicines for rheumatic complaints and inflammatory conditions (especially for the lower urinary tract and prostate) The leaf is used as a diuretic, for arthritis, prostatitis, rheumatism, rheumatoid arthritis, high blood pressure and allergic rhinitis.
With all these benefits, why not take a walk in the fields today and forage your dinner!
By Miranda Tringis, Herbalist.