Monday, 27 October 2014

Rain and Edible Weeds

 Rain and Edible Weeds

Rain in Athens, and Rain in Melbourne

Round and About Athens

Draining water from buildings after the recent rains
photo Nikos Chalkiopoulos

When we left the island the garden was very dry. It still had not rained, and though cooler the soil was very dry. I know this is the time that you can loose plants so I watered the pot plants and new plants well just before we left. But when we arrived in Athens ready to depart for Australia the weather changed. Dark clouds came in and thunder rolled overhead, and the rain fell. Now when the rain falls like this in Athens, being a city with a lot of cement, very gardens (and possibly many blocked gutters) the streets become rivers.  Takis called me to look at one picture on the news of a car that had been washed down the street and was now on top of another.

Melbourne sky-line

The weather was good when we arrived in Melbourne and our first day was sunny. But then the next night a storm hit Melbourne. Again lightening flashed and thunder rolled. The rain fell out of the heavens. And here too were pictures on TV of traffic jams as the rain delayed the rush hour traffic.

Storm over Melbourne Sunday night, 26th October
herald sun photographer, Jason



Just before we left Greece my neighbour pointed out to me the good crop of dandelions in my garden there. Not as large as those we’ve got here in Australia but young and tender. Together we gathered several and the next day she brought me a bag of leaves from their farm. Takis and I cooked them and ate them with a dressing of olive oil and lemon juice.

Coming home to spring it always a joy. I would have liked to see early spring but though the azaleas are past their best there are still rhododendrons in bloom. But the winter rain and spring sunshine in Melbourne has brought on a wondrous crop of dandelions plus thistles that are six meters tall. I have to get out and pull them out before they seed. But I might go around and gather the dandelion leaves for supper. They are perfect, large and tender.

Horta, Edible Weeds


Horta is the general name given to stuff that you boil for a green vegetable in Greece. Most tavernas serve it. It could be spinach but it could be a mix of edible weeds. These could include dandelion leaves and amaranth leaves, also known as vlita, a plant that grows on the roadsides but also in my garden.


Three Blogs

1. In her blog about Greek Mediterranean Cooking Diane Kochilas tells us that

‘Vlita is the Greek name for amaranthus viridis, or slim amaranth, a green that grows wild in gardens all over Greece in the summer. There are about 60 varieties of amaranth throughout the world, at least one of which is cultivated for its seeds. In the U.S. most people know amaranth as the [gluten-free] Peruvian grain that has taken health-conscious consumers by storm the last few years. Greeks eat the leaves, not the seeds.’

Boiled Vlita
I’m a beginner in this area. I’ve only just discovered that you can add purslane to salads and I almost had a field of it in Greece. I have discovered this blog and will pass on a bit of wisdom from another Julia.

2. From the New Zealand the blog, Julia’s Edible Weeds
gives the golden rules for enjoying wild edibles responsibly:
1.     If you dont know what it is dont eat it. Learn to identify plants that are edible and get to know those that are poisonous. The best way is learning from a local expert. Second best is from books and the Internet.
2.              Make sure the plants you harvest are not sprayed or from contaminated soil.
3.              Sample new edibles in small amounts to start with and if you have no adverse affect after some time a little more can be eaten.
Get permission if harvesting from someone else’s property.

3. And from another Greek blog, Aglaia’s Table in Kea Cyclades comes this information about Greek Horta

‘The greens we consume today are probably the same we encounter in the texts of Theophrastus and other ancient authors: The ancient ascolymvros has become scolymos, Sonchus is now zochos, caucalis is cafkalithra etc. As these plants–their names and uses—have never been part of any school curriculum, we can safely conclude that our knowledge of them has passed orally from one generation to the next, starting in the very early times. I must have been ten years old when my Kean grandfather taught me which greens are healthy and which are foul-tasting or poisonous, while most of my friends learned it from their mothers. Horta can taste sweet, tart, or bitter, and some are wonderfully aromatic. Apart from the greens collected from the hills and mountains, there are also some, like purslane, which grow as weeds among the cultivated crops. For centuries, poor Greeks used these wild plants to complement their frugal menu of bread, cheese, olives, and olive oil.’

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