We started our third day of Terra Madre with the Universita degli Studi di Scienze Gastronomiche (UNISG) in an Urban Foraging class. Foraging is the ancient practice of gathering wild plants, herbs, minerals, and fungi to eat. We walked around Parco de Valentino all morning exploring the natural edibles.
Clover was all over the park – and is common back home as well. It is a native of Europe but has been used as a pasture crop worldwide.
The blossom to the root is edible but really only the blossoms are pleasant to human tastes.
Under the hazelnut trees, we found Galinsoga Parviflora. The leaves can be eaten raw in mixed salads, cooked in soups, or dried to powder and sprinkle on dishes.
Urtica Urens is important for it’s medicinal properties – it’s useful for stomach cramps, acne, or to purify blood. In cooking, it is used after boiling in omlette, dumplings, or quiches.
This plant, Chenopodium Album, is known as spinach and it used in similar ways – dumplings, quiches, risotti. Like spinach, it’s also high in iron and Vitamin B.
Dandelions are a common edible in the states and here in Italy as well! All parts of the plant are edible and have medicinal and culinary uses. The flowers can be added to a salad or made into jelly or wine. The leaves are rich in potassium, antioxidants, and Vitamins A and C and can be eaten like other greens – raw, steamed, boiled, sauteed, or braised. The roots can be harvested too and can help balance blood sugar and stimulate digestion.
Purslane has been known to overtake our garden beds back home and was found here in Parco de Valentino as well. It’s commonly consumed in the Mediterranean area raw in salads, cooked in soups, or pickled in vinegar.
These broad leaves of Plantago Lanceolata have a taste similar to mushrooms and can be used in salads or boiled like spinaches.
Nasturtiums, while cultivated as part of the landscape here, are also one of my favorite edible flowers!
After our Urban Foraging class, we headed north of the city to Via Borga Dora to hear Carlo Petrini, the president of Slow Food, present the new campaign – eartHeart: Defend the Future.
Over the past 10,000 years, humans have grown thousands of plant varieties. But in the last 70 years, 75% of these have been lost due to monocultures, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and factory farms. This type of agriculture is bad for our environment and bad for our health, but biodiversity can save our planet.
When we walked out of the Scuola Holden where the event was held, we saw the Turin Eye floating about the skyline. We added that to our list of things to do while we are in town.
Our next stop was the Mercato de Porta Palazzo – it’s said that it is the largest open air market in the world.
The market was vibrant and lively – so many sights, sounds, and smells to take in. There were so many varieties of fruits and vegetables that I had never seen before!
The variety of citrus available was beautiful (and tasty)!
There were many fall squashes and gourds available at the market – many shapes and sizes that I hadn’t seen before but the color and seeds on the inside were immediately recognizable.
Of course, the market had endless stalls of cheese, meat, pasta, breads, flowers, and everything else you can imagine too!
Next, we stopped by “The Garden Revolution” exhibit. The photos, hanging in the arches of the city center, showed how urban gardens can bring positive change to schools, hospitals, and prisons. The United States was highlighted in this exhibit – showing photos of gardens in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
Appropriately, our next stop was “The Garden Revolution” conference at the Carignano Theater. We heard from Edward Mukiibi about his work with the 10,000 Gardens in Africa project, from Ron Finley about his work as a “guerilla gardener” in Los Angeles and lastly, from Alice Waters about her work with the Edible Schoolyard primarily.
Cacao Perdido was our last class of the day. In this class, we learned about the biodiversity of cacao including prized and relatively unknown varieties specifically in the upper reaches of the Amazon (Peru, Ecuador, Columbia, Venezuela).
We also had the special treat of tasting a variety of vermouths with our single-origin chocolates.
Another great day in the books at the Terra Madre Slow Food Conference!