The flora around Casa Lauretana

Medicinal herbs? Wild herbs? Or just weeds?

When walking around Casa Lauretana, you can discover a variety of herbs growing there. Not everything is a weed! From my two lovely elderly neighbours Pia and Rosa I have learned that these are often medicinal or wild herbs and that some decade ago they often had used them in their cooking.

These are medicinal herbs

Buon Enrico (the “Good King Henry” – wild spinach)

A little curiosity:

It seems that Henry IV of Navarre gave the people of his city access to his garden park to feed on the herbs grown there. The plant is named after Henry IV because his subjects wanted to dedicate it to him in gratitude.

The botanical name of the so-called “Good King Henry” is Chenopodium Bonus-Henricus. It is also known as poor-man’s asparagus, perennial goosefoot or Lincolnshire spinach.

We are talking about a herbaceous, sometimes creeping plant that branches in an exemplary manner, although it only reaches an average height of 60 centimetres, it is a very easily grown plant, it tolerates considerable neglect and succeeds in most soils and situations.

The leaves of this plant are characteristic because they are wavy and have the typical shape of an arrow, which is why they are also called sagittate or astate. The leaves are covered with a very dense down, which gives the plant an almost grainy appearance when touched. If you touch the plant, your fingers remain sticky for a long time. 

The flowers of the Good King Henry are in a spike and vary in colour as they are sometimes red and sometimes very light green. 

The flowering period takes place between July and September.

–>Pictures coming up soon.

Cultivation

The plant grows wild in mountain and foothill regions at an altitude of about 2,000 metres and prefers nitrogenous and well-fertilised soils, although it also adapts to other soil types. It is often found in mountainous areas where herds graze and leave behind their dung, which acts as an organic fertiliser. In these soils, the Good King Henry finds its natural habitat identical to that of the nettle plant, which is why it often grows in association with it. 

This “weed” produces about one million seeds per plant and remains viable in the soil for 20-30 years.

The mountainous regions of Italy are full of Buon Enrico plants, you can often find them along roadsides. 

In the past, this plant was used to dye hair and to make copper pots and pans shine again.

Therapeutic properties

Buon Enrico can be described as an anti-anaemic because it provides the body with many vitamins and iron. Its therapeutic properties are re-evaluated after studies by medicinal plant experts. In the past, it never received much attention and was used exclusively at home. Since ancient times, preparations have been made from this plant to soothe wounds or severe burns caused by sunburn. Some recipes that have been passed down from family to family are still used today.

The plant is emollient, laxative and vermifuge. The infused seeds are given to children as they are a mild laxative, and the leaves are rich in iron, making them suitable for people with anaemia. 

However people with a tendency to rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones or hyperacidity should take especial caution if including this plant in their diet since it can aggravate their condition.

Buon Enrico used in the kitchen

♥︎♥︎♥︎ Umbrian gnudi made with Good King Henry ♥︎♥︎♥︎

Ingredients:

500-600 g Buon Enrico

1 egg

100 g grated Parmesan

1 tbsp breadcrumbs

Nutmeg

200 g ricotta

Recipe:

Harvest 500/600 g of Buon Enrico, clean, wash and squeeze the vegetables, steam them in their own water and set them aside. Crack an egg into a bowl and add 100 g grated Parmesan cheese, a tablespoon of breadcrumbs, some nutmeg and 200 g of ricotta. Mix all these ingredients. Now crush the Buon Enrico and join it to the previous mixture. When everything is compacted, form some balls, flour them and throw them into boiling salted water. In a few seconds the „gnudi“ come to the surface, drain and dress with olive oil and sage.