The villages surrounding my own are places I used to drive through frequently until the passing of my relatives who lived there; my daily routine these days doesn't lead me into these places, as I now feel I have little reason to go there. I felt a stranger there when I recently dropped my daughter off at a friend's house tucked in the midst of olive groves and orange orchards.
I recall a time when I would walk with my father's sister in these fields, watching them in fascination as they picked the wild edible greens, as I remembered watching my mother picking similar wild edibles in a faraway country. After leaving my daughter, I stopped by the side of a road, close to my aunt's home, which reminded me of those times when I accompanied her on foot. We would walk slowly - there was no need to rush - stopping off wherever we found large clumps of dock, fennel and wild mustard.
I was surprised - and indeed thrilled! - to find the same horta growing in the same place where I last watched my late aunt collecting them. I am often amused to find the same wild greens being sold at the fresh supplies stores, commanding high prices.
We live in a mixed-up world these days. We are made to feel that we are trespassing over other people's properties, at the same time that we see fields untended, orchards overgrown, fruit rotting and trees growing so closely together that their trunks are no longer discernible. We are soon to be taxed on land ownership, even when that land is not productive. The next stage will be the laying of footpaths on the first roads that now line the fields, so that even what has been growing wildly and quietly on its own will begin to disappear as the last bastions of their abodes are eradicated.
Although people are now finding more and more ways of economising, foraging is still not as popular these days as one would think it would be, given the money problems people are currently facing. But there is another problem with foraging in our times: petrol is expensive, so it's difficult to get to the areas where foraging is at its best. I happened to be at the right place at the right time; I would not have made this trip if it weren't for my daughter's outing. Not all areas are as 'pure' and undisturbed as the area where I was most recently foraging. The soil in the fields is often turned, so that wild edibles are often lost in the turmoil. The places where soil is less often turned are usually located near roads, leading to potential pollution from vehicles. Most of my finds were found in a small ditch located at a lower-than-street level between the fields and the roads, where animals do not graze and cars do not run them over.
Do we really need to forage for wild greens? Nearly everything is available in shops, but at a price. But personally speaking, if I had to pay for everything I ate, my diet would be more restricted. My food wouldn't be that tasty - in fact, there would always be some taste missing from it, which can only be found in the wild. That's why my food is generally so tasty - it's not my technique, it's the carefully selected ingredients. Most produce I use is fresh, seasonal and local. If it isn't fresh, then it's probably frozen as soon as it was harvested - and its flavour remains at its prime.
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The surrounding villages smell of orange blossom now
Fields are covered in yellow oxalis
The dock is now on its last legs before it gets too hot to grow
Mustard greens are also thickening their stems
These greens will be added to spinach, to make spanakopita
The kids are learning to forage too - they learn by experience