In the Community of Madrid there are 123 wild plants and 15 mushrooms that were used in traditional gastronomy and that can continue to have a leading role in the kitchen of the future by contributing their nutritional qualities to a safe, healthy and sustainable diet.
In Spain, wild food species belong to 514, belonging to 74 families, representing 8 percent of the Iberian flora.
In statements to Efe, the doctor engineer agronomist Javier Tardío, researcher of the Madrid Institute of Rural Research and Development, Agrarian and Alimentary (Imidra), indicates that he led between 1999 and 2002 a study on wild plants that have traditionally had a food use in the region of Madrid.
This research, in which Higinio Pascual (Imidra) and Ramón Morales (Real Jardín Botánico) also participated, included interviews with more than a hundred people from 59 municipalities to collect and disseminate this popular wisdom.
All the information was collected in the book guide-catalog "Wild Food of Madrid" with the aim that "this knowledge will pass to future generations", so that "anyone can identify these species and consume them," explains Tardío.
The Imidra - an autonomous body attached to the Ministry of Environment and Territorial Planning - also coordinated a project to analyze the productive capacity and the nutritional and functional composition of some wild plants for food use, selecting twenty species of vegetables and four of wild fruits. .
In this work, the Royal Botanical Garden, the Autonomous University of Madrid and the Department of Nutrition and Bromatology of the Faculty of Pharmacy of the Complutense University of Madrid participated.
Tests were also carried out on the cultivation of wild vegetables, such as the cardillo (Scolymus hispanicus), the romaza (Rumex pulcher), the campion (Silene vulgaris) and the chicory (Cichorium intybus).
The work allowed to demonstrate that the cultivation of these species is "perfectly possible", although "something else is profitability", which will depend on the characteristics of the places to grow them, says Tardío.
However, the ecological cultivation of these species makes it possible to ensure that they are not treated with herbicides or phytosanitary products, the researcher points out.
The cardillo was used in the past in a widespread manner in Madrid and much of the country and is currently grown in some areas of Andalusia as Cádiz.
In the traditional elaborations, they took advantage of the pencas of the cardillo, which was consumed cooked, in scrambled and as an accompaniment in the stew.
The colleja was also prepared in scrambled eggs and was used together with other vegetables such as the romaza as accompaniment in the chickpea and cod stew typical of Lent, in the same way that spinach has been used.
Of the chicory, they took advantage of the root, the green leaves and the buds that grew underground, that were less bitter, more tender and had a whitish tone.
"In the past, chicory grew in the middle of the fields, farmers cut the grass and, in some cases, regrowed underground, like buds similar to wild endives, which were consumed in salad," says Tardío.
The green leaves of the chicory were cooked, throwing the water three or four times to remove the bitter taste, and then sautéed like any other vegetable.
The root of the roasted and ground chicory was used as a coffee substitute after the Civil War and is still marketed in soluble powder, due to its functional properties. It has been shown that the inulin from chicory root contributes to a healthy and balanced digestive system.
In the Community of Madrid, restaurants Montia (San Lorenzo de El Escorial) and El Imperio (Madrid) include in their menus some elaborations with wild species of the region.
In other countries, there is a greater interest in the culinary use of wild plants, such as Denmark, where the famous restaurant Noma in Copenhagen, with two Michelin stars, is committed to local ingredients and has a large number of wild species in its menus
By Ximena Hessling