In early spring wild herbs start to grow all over the Cyprus countryside, these have traditionally been made to make vegetable dishes, salads, pickles and pies.
Two plants which you will see growing everywhere, especially on waste-ground and by roadsides are Wild Mallow (Gömeç in Cypriot) and Nipplewort (Lapsana, from it’s latin name Lapsana communis. At this time of year these herbs are sometimes found for sale at the Wednesday Market in Girne.
Wild Mallow (Gömeç)
A perennial weed in my garden in the UK, this herb is used across many regions of the Eastern Mediterranean, its common name in both Hebrew and Arabic, translates to 'bread'.
All parts of the plant are edible including the leaves, flowers, roots and seeds or ‘nutlets’.
The leaves can be cooked and eaten as a substitute to spinach in many dishes ranging from gnocchi to quiche, it can be added to thicken soups, due to its mucilaginous character or even deep-fried like green wafers. It can also be used as a substitute when making Molokhia. The flowers and buds can be pickled.
The disc-shaped seeds, also known as ‘nutlets’ or ‘cheeses’ due to their shape, are edible and can be eaten like other seeds. Although they should not be eaten in large quantities.
Common mallow is a highly nutritious green, containing (per 100 g of fresh weight)
⦁ 4.6 g protein,
⦁ 1.4 g fat,
⦁ 24 mg vitamin C,
⦁ vitamin A and carotenoids
The fats contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which can help reduce the incidence of chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
The leaves also contain health-giving antioxidants and is a good source of dietary fibre.
The leaves as well as the roots are mucilaginous which you can feed if you tear or crush one.
Common mallow was once a ‘cure-all’ of Medieval herbal medicine. It was used to treat many conditions from stomach ache to problems during childbirth.
In Britain and Ireland, the plant was used as a laxative, to cleanse the liver, to cure blood poisoning, and to treat urinary problems, rheumatism, heartburn, coughs and cuts.
The mucilaginous roots, in particular, were used to make poultices and soothing ointments.
Source : Permaculture.co.uk
The young leaves, shoots and upper stem portions can be eaten either raw or cooked. They are best harvested before the plant comes into flower. The leaves can be added to raw or cooked to salads, cooked like spinach or added to soups and casseroles. They have a bitter or radish-like taste.
It used to be eaten in England, Italy and Turkey. The stems are rather hairy, therefore chewy, foliage, which can be off-putting.
It is not known to have any nutritional benefits, other than those which common to all green salad vegetables.
The English name 'Nipplewort' derives from its closed flower buds, which resemble nipples. Because of its resemblance to nipples, it was once used as treatment for breast ulcers, particularly in Persia.