Each Sunday during October and November Petritoli celebrates herbs and olive oil with the Erba Olio Festival. It is the time for picking the olives and taking them to the press, I’ll blog about that soon as we’re in the middle of our harvest now. The Comune (local council, pronounced co-moon-nay) organise events at different venues. They usually involve a talk about wild herbs and then a meal incorporating herbs and olives/olive oil in some way.
Last Sunday with friends, I decided to take part in a guided woodland walk before a substantial lunch priced at € 22 a head including wine, coffee and liquers. at Parco Galeano, a local Agriturismo. An Agriturismo is usually in the countryside, it will have a restaurant, accommodation (B&B), possibly a shop and a proportion of the food served must be their own produce and the remainder must originate within a very short distance (within 20k I think).
The walk and talk was supposed to start at 10am but when I rang to book they said to come closer to 10.30 which my two friends and I duly did. Of course, this is Italy so there was not another soul to be seen. They were working hard in the kitchen preparing our lunch but no-one had yet arrived for the walk…so…we sat in the glorious sunshine, it was about 25 degrees. We waited…and waited…A lady in a tracksuit, anorak, boots and hat arrived after about 20 mins, she carried with her a large bag, she was Italian, we knew she was Italian because of the amount of clothing she was wearing. As it’s October it’s obligatory to wear autumnal/winter clothing regardless of the ambient temperature. We expats of course were in T-shirt and light-weight trousers. We did sport our trainers in preparation for the ‘hike’. This well clad woman definitely didn’t need a guided walk as she proceeded immediately to fill her bag with all types of green foliage and it was soon bursting with a huge scrumptious feast for… a bunny maybe? At least that’s what we thought then, but later we would be so much wiser.
At last our guide Lino (pronounced Leeno) arrived. He was delightful and after introductions and lots of jolly laughter he looked around asked where everyone else was. We shrugged our shoulders and said, ‘solo noi,’ (only us) and pointed also to the bag lady, but she was bottom up in the corner of the abandoned vineyard, digging up some root or other. Lino must have realised immediately that she was ‘on her own’.
My Italian is not so bad, my understanding is better than my speaking and my two friends Helen and Jan, knew some and a little Italian respectively. It was going to be an interesting walk. To look the part I wore my walking shoes and my small back pack. ‘Lets get going then! Andiamo!’ I pointed to the track leading down to the woods and parkland. We moved less than a metre, in fact the whole ‘hike’ took us no further than 25 metres from start to finish. Which I suppose is impressive when you consider I took over 60 photographs of different types of herbs, grasses, fruits and other plants, all with varying degrees of health giving properties, ailment fixers, de-toxing thingies, I mean this small area had more goodies in it than any health food shop or whole food store. Gosh and golly it was awesome!
The trouble was there were so many diverse plants with Latin names, family names, common names, nicknames etc., and they often looked very, very similar. I cannot remember a single one…oh I lie I can remember Rucolo Romana (Roman Rocket) with a white flower, but I didn’t photograph that. I already knew the wild rocket with a yellow flower, dandelion, cornflower and blackberry, that was about it. Shepherd’s purse I had heard of but would not have been able to identify. Lino told us it was called Shepherd’s purse because of the triangular shape of the seed pod, shaped like a Shepherd’s purse. Am I repeating myself here rather too much? I absolutely loved every second of Lino’s interesting talk, he knew so much and wanted to share his knowledge with us. We tried hard and he wrote lots of notes down for us in Italian or Latin but at the end all I could remember was,
Non mangiare. Va bene mangiare. Buono per cucinare. Non raccogliere (Don’t eat. Okay to eat, Good for cooking. Do not pick.)
I’m sorry to say that I couldn’t walk through the fields now and identify many of the ‘va bene mangiare’ and experimenting would not be a good idea. I wrote down the number of each photograph on my piece of paper with the plant name beside it, but when I uploaded the photos I think I must have made a mistake somewhere as I had the blackberry bush identified as Corbezzotto Arbutus Unedo…WRONG as you will all know…the blackberry is Robus Hulmifolius…so there! (hope I’ve got that correct!)
There was one other category this was for the plants that were good for the ‘suocera’ (mother-in-law!) Hmm…
Next blog will be about the lunch! Watch this space…..:)