This weekend’s cooking made me think about gourmet food and restaurants. Setting aside cooking skills, what is required for a special mean is quite common, but they are often ‘forgotten treasures’ of Mother Earth.
Old, traditional, local varieties or wild ingredients with a twist of innovative cooking techniques and use can raise the value and flavor of a dish to the stars!
Let’s begin with a very common wild herb in Greece: Sinapsis arvensis or wild mustard. In Greece you can find it in cultivated fields and in the beautiful valleys that highways pass through, as well as in waste dumps. It is a native plant almost everywhere in Mediterranean basin, in Eastern and Central Europe, North Africa, and Asia, but it has also taken root on the rest of the globe.
In Greece, its common name is ‘vrouva’. There is a saying ‘pige gia vrouves – he went to look for vrouba,’ an ironic phrase derived from the fact that is can be found everywhere, meaning, someone is making poor use of his time.
Wild mustard seeds have been used from Hippocrates’ era until today for pharmaceutical reasons, and the sweet edges of the flowering part of the plant have culinary uses.
Seeds are used for herbal medicine and homeopathy. Boiled leaves can help with flu and headaches (drinking the water) – but the fresh flowers are a true delicacy and health boosters.
The fresh flowers contain a great amount of vitamin A, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium. Traditional cuisine in Greece used vrouves for any recipe with wild horta – greens. From vegan green pies to pot recipes with meat, vrouves will give you a sweet taste and aroma but also nutritional value (leaves and soft stems with flowers).
In more gourmet usage, offered in many Greek restaurants, soft peaks with flowers can be used raw in salads or on top of savory purees and ‘alifes’ – savory traditional spreads like ‘fava’.
Even some easy-to-find plants were used only in the past in traditional cuisine, consumers’ desires for ‘new tastes’ bringing them back.
Why not take your cuisine to the next level of gourmet food and super nutrition?
* The above is not medical advice but mere suggestions for improving your diet. Before reach herbal use you should consult your doctor, especially those who have health issues, are pregnant or are under the age of 6.
Evropi-Sofia Dalampira holds a PhD in Agricultural Economics and an MSc in Botany-Biology.