The shared world of plants
By Sofia, Jun 7 2020 08:51AM
I generally spend a fair bit of time out in nature, but this year - in such unexpected and unusual circumstances - nature has been my salvation. The blog contents show foraging to be my own way of appeasing curiosity about the surroundings, which includes flora. Oregano and St.Johns Wort gathering is an annual event; I forage these both for myself and for friends who cannot leave their work to do so themselves.
Although we are mostly familiar with herbs which are readily found in our kitchen cupboards stocked from the supermarket shelves, there are so many edibles in nature, be they for flavouring, to eat, or drink. The main difference is that, foraged direct from nature, these need home-preparation: the care needed, for example to take time to dry them makes their pleasure even greater!
Herbs can be gleaned in the flora world from the leaves of a plant, flowers, seeds or even root (ginger). In Skopelos, growing of most herbs is not necessary if you know a little about nature's many generous gifts. It is enough to know the herb you want to harvest, when, and how to preserve and store it for later use (drying, pickling, freezing). There are many edible herbs on the island, especially those that I use regularly in food or drink (some for both). Readily found is fennel, mallow, nettle, chamomile, lemon balm, peppermint, mint, oregano, sage, thyme, capers, hawthorn, watercress, samphire, rue (ruta), myrtle, and many more. ..
The harvest in most cases is best early in the morning when the dew has dried and the herbs are still fresh in the cool morning. Most herbs are at their best for gathering just before flowering. Avoid crushing or tearing herbs and try gathering, drying and storing them whole, which preserves better the essential oils and scents.
Taste is a personal matter as is preference to stronger or weaker flavours and scents. Average herbal dose for a cup made of fresh herbs is three teaspoons of fresh macerated herbs to a cup, while with dried herbs one teaspoon per cup is enough.
I like to mix and combine the herbs for my daily brew, in accordance to scent and taste, but still exercise caution with some, as their essential oils could produce a bitter pottage is steeped too long (e.g. sage, St. John's wort).
I prefer mixing my daily brew with fresh herbs to the commercial sort I used to drink, usually laced with milk. As well as the satisfaction of preparation, foraging from nature rather than from the supermarket shelf has an added bonus: one is closer and more aware of nature around the island, closer to the seasons, closer to flora and fauna.
If you wish to learn more about the flora of the island you may look at my friend Sue Warren's site: