There are many edible wild plants in the countryside round Lagartera. Some are used to add flavour to food, while others can be eaten as vegetables. They provide us with vitamins and minerals and help us maintain a varied and healthy diet. To start, we’ll explain how to harvest, prepare, and cook two very tasty vegetables: wild leeks (Allium ampeloprasum) and Spanish oyster thistles (Scolymus hispanicus).
As these are non-standardized, wild vegetables, preparation and cooking times may vary, so the times given here are approximate.
Wild leeks belong to the botanical family of allium, like onions and garlic. Wild leeks are smaller than cultivated leeks, with a larger bulb. They are found in moist and fertile areas in the countryside, in late winter and spring. You have to harvest them carefully, leaving the smaller plants to grow big next year, and digging up the leeks with their roots. If you simply pull them out, you may lose the valuable bulbs. If you notice small bulbs attached to the main bulb, plant them in the ground again to grow and form new plants. It’s easier to harvest them after a few days of rain.
You can also grow wild leeks in the garden by planting small bulbs and leaving some adult plants. They can be grown as ornamental plants, as the flower is very pretty.
To prepare wild leeks, remove the bottom part where the roots are, and two or three outer layers. The green part is the toughest, and can be used to make broths, removing the toughest part at the top. It’s important to wash the leeks well under a tap to remove any dirt.
Wild leeks can be used in many recipes, such as creams and soups, meat stews (they go well with chicken and pork), omelettes and scrambled eggs. Here is a recipe:
Scrambled eggs with wild leeks (serves about 4 people)
- 4-6 wild leeks, depending on size
- 4 eggs
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
Preparation time: 20 minutes
In a pan, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the well-cleaned leeks, and sauté.
Beat 4 eggs and salt to taste.
Pour the eggs on top of the leeks and stir, cooking more or less to your liking.
Transfer to a dish and it’s ready to serve.
Total time: 50 minutes
Preparation: 20 minutes
Cooking: 30 minutes
Spanish oyster thistles
Spanish oyster thistles, locally called cardillos or tagarninas, are also found in spring. It’s advisable to wear gloves when harvesting them, as the stems are covered with sharp prickly leaves. They need to be peeled, with the leaf stems stripped, and the leftover leaves can be used to make compost for the garden or for pots.
Rice, potatoes, and oyster thistles (serves 4)
- 200 grams of oyster thistles
- 2 potatoes
- 1/2 onion
- 300 grams of rice
- Teaspoon of paprika
- A bay leaf
- Olive oil
Cut the oyster thistles into pieces of approximately 3 cm, well cleaned. Boil them in a pot with salted water until tender. The cooking time will depend on the toughness of the oyster thistles, from 30 minutes to almost an hour if they are very tough. Drain and set aside.
In a saucepan, heat 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil, sauté the onion and, when it’s browned, add the sliced potatoes. Sauté for 3 minutes and add the rice, salt to taste, a teaspoon of paprika, and the bay leaf. Cover with water and cook for 15 minutes.
Add the oyster thistles and continue cooking for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and it’s ready to eat.
Total time: approximately 1 hour
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes or so, depending on the toughness of the oyster thistles.
Enjoy your meal!
Text: Urbano Bermejo and Guzmán Lozano
Photos: Guzman Lozano and Alison Lever
Lagartera, Toledo, March 2023