What is your concept of good eating? Are you healthy food lovers or better gourmand, the kind of person that love delicious, traditional and local food? By now, I think you may have understood that I am more the second kind. But I’m lucky enough because I live in Romagna, where the food is the maximum expression of the tradition and wellbeing.
Food in Romagna: the forgotten herbs of Casola Valsenio garden
Starting from the great experience of Mr Pellegrino Artusi, the recipes of the local traditional dishes are an amazing example of how to prepare food without using artificial ingredients. The wise old way of cooking that women here used in ancient times shows that good food is easier than can be imagined.
The garden of forgotten herbs of Casola Valsenio is the best place to learn the secrets and discover the various kinds of herbs and their use. Imagine a valley that looks on olive trees fields and on the ancient oaks that magnify the ancestral natural chalk amphitheater that protects the area, creating several microclimate.
Cooking with the herbs
It’s the valley of Senio river, a place where people used to live since the very beginning of the human life. The regional park of the Vena del Gesso (chalk vein) has a system of prehistorically caves that run inside the mountain, with the first walls graffiti made by prehistoric man.
It’s in this place that in 1938 Mr. Augusto Rinaldi Ceroni created a unique collection of herbs. His idea was to keep the biodiversity of plants and the knowledge of the tradition linked to them. Nowadays more than 450 different kinds of herbs, used for medicine purposes but also in the kitchen, are growing in the garden.
The alternate grow keeps the place always alive. “They never stay alive in the same period of the year, says Sauro Biffi, the director of the garden, and also you will never find the same climate all over the place: winds and different ground exposure, make the garden a marvelous example of how nature protects herself.
Our visit in the morning was especially impressive: the silence of nature surrounding us while we were walking slowly the paths of the garden, surprisingly learning (and sometimes tasting) the herbs that Sauro was explaining like a Zen monk.
The garden is also a research center: many scientists come here to study plants and their illnesses to better the species used for commercial and industrial purposes, following one of the main mission Mr. Ceroni wanted for this natural and wonderful creation, really unique in Italy and in Europe (think that many botanical gardens in Italy originally bought theirs plants here!).
What a better way to end our visit than cooking our tasty salad with herbs? More than 10 different herbs: peppermint, marjoram, sorrel, thyme, chive, calendula, and many others, cleaned and prepared live and then eaten quite simply with a good local olive oil.
Tips and info
The garden of forgotten herbs is full of activities. You can just visit it to enjoy the colors and the smells in Spring and Summer, or buy little plants to have your fresh herbs at home, or even learn how to use them in your dishes for a healthy kitchen. Moreoever, once a year, Casola Valsenio the Italian capital of herbs. Many exhibitors come here with their products and show new recipes. The restaurants of the town prepare special dishes and you can try to make herbal preparations by yourself.
Disclosure: this post is part of the Buonvivere Blog Tour 2014 edition; thank to all that allowed me to visit these places and live these experiences.