Wordless Wednesday – Leeks

There was a whole field as far as the eye could see!

There was a whole field as far as the eye could see!

I think I should find somewhere to grow some

I think I should find somewhere to grow some for the flowers

Leeks

Leeks

Obviously sad for the farmer who didn’t manage to harvest these, but it was a wonderful sight when I was on my way to the sea on Friday.  Sorry, I know it should be wordless!

Monti Sibillini a wild flower paradise

For Wordless Wednesday I gave you a taste of the wild flowers we saw last weekend when we visited the Monti Sibillini National Park. The National Park was formed in 1993 and the area is host to wolves and other animals that are disappearing from the wild across Europe. The Park spans the two regions of Umbria and Marche. Continue reading

In a field nearby

I’m not at home today to share a vase with you; but I’ve been meaning to photograph and show you the wonderful poppies I pass when I drive into town.

I choose to drive into town on the back road to see the wild flowers

I choose to drive into town on the back road to see the wild flowers

This year the poppies started flowering in mid-March, very early

This year the poppies started flowering in mid-March, very early

and more poppies

and more poppies

Poppies

Poppies

Is there anything as delightful as poppies?

Is there anything as delightful as poppies?

Wildflowers in Etruscan places at Easter

The Italians aren’t great walkers; we learnt that soon after coming to live in Italy. Footpaths are rare, where they exist there are seldom signposts and more often than not they are overgrown! To start with I couldn’t understand why but slowly I realised that in winter it was bitingly cold (often) and in summer the beach is much more appealing when it is too hot to do more than sit under a large umbrella.

But we like walking and I also wanted to see the wild flowers to help me understand what grows naturally here. Then we also developed an interest in visiting the numerous Etruscan necropoli in the area. Most are completely abandoned, the archaeologists having done their work of recording their contents and the choice items having been sent to museums locally and internationally the areas are left untouched. BUT slowly the local councils have realised that they have a great incentive for tourists to visit the area, buy quality local produce and use restaurants, hotels etc. So the areas where the tombs are situated often have footpaths to them, usually reasonably signposted and generally the paths are trodden enough to keep them open ah! the perfect place to walk. Continue reading

Visiting the Lentil Fields at Casteluccio

The July following our arrival in Italy some friends took me up to what seemed like the top of the world to see the lentil fields flowering in Casteluccio in Umbria.  We were a little early so although I enjoyed the day there wasn’t all that much to see.

I have been promising myself and my husband that we would go up one weekend when we were sure the fields would be colourful.

So nine years later we got there! Continue reading

Wild flowers

The red European poppies were flowering in the fields on road verges for most of last month, but I’ve posted about poppies every April and May, here and here; this year there is something else red flowering in the fields all around the house.  Do you remember that a few years ago almost every show garden at Chelsea had red clover (Trifolium incarnatum)? The farmers here must have been inspired (I jest – this has always been a planted to improve the soil and I think make good hay for the sheep and cows (not absolutely sure about that).

Trifolium incarnatum with Vetch

Trifolium incarnatum with Vetch

Trifolium incarnatum

Trifolium incarnatum

20130528_9999

ploughed soil and a line of clover

ploughed soil and a line of clover

St. Bernard's Lily Anthericum liliago

St. Bernard’s Lily Anthericum liliago

This delicate looking plant was growing wild in my friends garden; if it were in mine I’d move some to a border where they could be enjoyed.

20130528_9999_10Above and below:

While visiting a friend’s garden I saw a plant I’ve heard of but never seen before, Cerinthe major is well known in its purple form but the wild yellow form is never planted in gardens as far as I know.

Cerinthe

Cerinthe

20130528_9999_5

With all the rain this year so far, I’m thinking of renaming 2013 as the year of the snail!  I have many more than normal in my garden this year, but nothing like the number my friend has in hers; these are all gathered on one poor rose bud.

You Can Tell It’s Autumn When…..

When it rains everyone begins to start counting the days until there should be Funghi (wild mushrooms to pick.  Unless the wind swings round to the north or it suddenly gets very hot ten days after a good downpour the woods and hills are filled with people with baskets. They are up at the crack of dawn; there is a lot of competition!

Foraging for food is still a very common practice in this part of Italy – very soon it will be chestnuts when it is dangerous driving on the roads for the number of food hunters bent over collecting the chestnuts that have fallen from the trees onto the public road and therefore available for harvesting by anyone who is brave enough to share the road with the speeding cars.

Last weekend I was lucky enough to be invited to dinner by friends who had just returned from a successful morning’s collecting.

We had raw porcini (ceps or penny bun or its Latin name is Boletus edulis) and raw ovoli (Amanita caesarea – Cesear’s  mushroom to as an antipasto.  Sorry, no image of this; it was eaten too quickly!

Followed by a fried Parasol Macrolepiota procera.

Parasol, Macrolepiota procera

The main dish was roasted potatoes with the caps of the enormous porcini cooked on top so that all the delicious flavours dripped down onto the absorbent potatoes.  The caps were studded with a shards of garlic and seasoned with salt and pepper and the magic ingredient a sprinkle of dried fennel flowers.

The cleaned mushrooms waiting to be cooked

Mostly porcini but you can see a couple of orange capped ovoli

The classic shape of Boletus edulis, Porcino

To have a sense of scale, Lidia is holding up two of the prize specimens

A wonderful meal was rounded off with roasted chestnuts!

Thank you Lidia and Giuliano

Wild flowers in Puglia

Last weekend we drove south to spend the weekend in Puglia, on the Gargano peninsula to be exact.  The sea was amazingly blue and it was so hot, the water was where I wanted to be.  On the map the Gargano is the spur on the boot of the Italian peninsula.  It is mostly a National Park and I’ve been told that in spring there are more varieties of orchids found here than anywhere else in Italy, some that are only found here.

While driving to visit some of the different towns we often stopped the car to enjoy the stunning views.  By the roadside were wild flowers that could obviously cope with the difficult conditions.

Right by the road I spotted this root;

Knurled and twisted root

what could it be?  The root of a tree? Cistus?

Following the roots to some green leaves…

the plant was much smaller than I had imagined it would be.

with the foliage and also a few flowers it was easy to identify as a Thyme, certainly the most tenacious thyme I have encountered.

At another stop I saw these beautiful flowers.

They also grow on cliffs, seemingly not to need and soil at all to survive.

From the buds that you can see, can you guess what plant it is?

Here’s a further clue.  We eat them in bud and in the fruit stage……

Here are all the stages; bud, flower and fruit

Did you guess? Yes, that’s correct.  This is the caper plant (Capparis spinosa).

The buds are picked and then either conserved in brine or under salt with no liquid which is the way I prefer to buy them as they have a more intense flavour, great on Pizza or in Spaghetti alla Putanesca.  The fruits (also conserved in brine) are often served along with olives for aperitivi.

I’ve tried to grow it in the garden but for a plant that seems to need so little to grow, it is very choosy and it is very difficult to encourage it to grow in a garden setting.