Yesterday our kind neighbour, Renzo, invited me to walk our paddocks with him in search of mushrooms and weeds (!?). I have always wanted to learn about the mushrooms that thrive in our valley, hoping that one day I might be confident enough to identify the safe ones then actually pick, cook and eat them. I have also often watched elderly locals bending over in our wet grass to pick green leaves and wanted to know what I was missing out on.
So I dropped what I was doing, dashed into the house to change my slippers for outside shoes and grabbed a bag and knife as instructed by my neighbour. Within seconds I was chasing Renzo down the hill where he was already stooping to look at the ground with great interest.
He explained that the safest mushrooms for me to identify myself are the ones that grow in clusters around the base of dead tree trunks, especially cherry and hazelnut trees. These mushrooms have a little collar on the stem which would help me to identify them from poisonous ones.
Unfortunately we only found one edible mushroom amongst the hundreds of poison ones that were poking up through the grass to tempt us.
Next, Renzo started picking green leaves and telling me to eat them as salad. He explain that "tarrasacco" is very good for the "bladder". I wondered how frequently this salad might send me to the toilet in a rush.
However, since I am constantly on the lookout for healthy and organic eating options, I picked an entire bagful of these leaves and determined to eat them for dinner.
I thanked Renzo for sharing his knowledge and traditions, then took my bounty inside to wash and dress it with olive oil and apple cider vinegar as suggested by my neighbour.
It turns out that the leaves were Dandelion, a common weed that is apparently very good for the gallbladder and liver!
Since they were delicious and also healthy I've already braved the rain today to pick some more for tonight's dinner...
"Dandelion Leaf (Taraxacum officinale) offers a number of benefits for the liver and gallbladder.
It promotes optimal digestive function, supports normal bile production (cholagogue), nourishes and boosts overall liver (hepatic) performance and protects the liver from damage.
It is a natural source of minerals such as calcium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc and iron and provides vitamins A, B, C, and D.
It acts as a blood purifying agent, is a mild laxative for constipation symptoms and stimulates urinary function to help flush out toxins.
It contains the antioxidant luteolin.
It stimulates a sluggish digestive system which aids the body in removing toxins and other waste and means that the liver does not have to work as hard to remove toxins that remain in the body.
It helps maintain normal blood sugar levels which also aids the liver so it doesn’t have to filter out excess glucose in the blood.
It contains a special sugar (inulin) which promotes the growth of healthy intestinal bacteria which reduces the amount of harmful bacteria in the body so the liver can focus on the process of toxin removal."
Above: Autumn's bounty