I’ve got a lovely bunch of… mountain herbs

Learn to recognize and use herbs and flowers in everyday life

How to identify wild flowers and herbs and use them in everyday life
How to identify wild flowers and herbs and use them in everyday life
How to identify wild flowers and herbs and use them in everyday life

SPRING 2020 – Dandelions brighten up meadows and are known as “dog’s teeth” locally, while pellitory-of-the-wall has little striped leaves that smell like basil. Together with wild garlic – with its tiny white inflorescences – and thin-stemmed wood sorrel, they may seem like nothing but weeds to the untrained eye. However, these and many other wild plants that grow in woods and meadows in the spring make outstanding ingredients in homemade dishes and natural cosmetic products.

At this time of year, Trentino turns into one big herb garden! Expert foragers are in heaven in the woods, which are home to all sorts of wonders. The smell of hay – which boasts a wealth of calming and healing properties – starts to drift through the air in the meadows and there is much more to the flowers than the spellbinding colours of their petals, because they are packed with fragrant and therapeutic essential oils.

We would like to introduce you to some of the secrets that nature lovers have learned over the years so that you feel like you can smell the plants and enjoy their benefits, no matter how far away you are.

Taraxacum officinale - (Common dandelion)

This is the first of the wild plants that can be picked, as soon as the snow melts. With their distinctive star-like shapes, dandelions fill the valleys of Trentino with colour in late March. They are normally picked when they are still budding, then preserved in oil. Their bitter flavour marvellously complements local pancetta and speck, as well as eggs and mature cheese such as Spressa delle Giudicarie.

Humulus lupulus - (Hop shoots)

Hop shoots are picked as soon as they start to grow, on uncultivated land on the banks of streams and in woods. This needs to be done before the vine-like plants become all tangled as they wrap themselves around the surrounding shrubs. The shoots are a reddish colour and they smell a bit like walnut husks, olives and peanuts. They are great on toasted slices of crusty bread with a glass of craft beer from Trentino and they also marvellously complement white meat, eggs, pasta and rice.

Silene vulgaris - (Bladder campion)

Also known as maidenstears, this plant grows in meadows at 800 to 1000 metres above sea level. It should be picked when it is still young and before it flowers, or the leaves get too tough. If it is blanched very quickly with a splash of vinegar, it has a slightly sweet flavour with a hint of liquorice. Delicious with speck and other local deli meats, it also goes very well with omelettes and fish.

Cicerbita alpina - (Alpine sow-thistle)

This is the most precious of the area’s wild herbaceous plants. It is a protected, endangered species and only registered inhabitants of the valleys of Trentino can pick it. They have to stick to a set annual limit and climb up to more than 2,000 metres above sea level to find it. Depending on the weather, the shoots start to grow between April and June. When they first appear, they are crisp and tender. They can be eaten raw or cooked and they have a delicate, slightly bitter flavour that goes well with mountain cheeses.

Allium schoenoprasum - (Chives)

When June comes around, foragers climb up to 2,000 metres above sea level and even higher in search of wild chives. The green leaves look like grass and smell like garlic. They are packed with mouth-watering flavours that culminate in a refined hint of truffles. The complex notes on the palate can be combined with an almost endless range of foods, including: cheese, deli meats, polenta, mushrooms, soup, fish, meat and potatoes. 

Published on 06/06/2023