Alpine travels in Armenia (part three)
Kit Strange from Kew's Alpine team continues her travels in Armenia, this time discovering food from the mountains.
In Armenia most people use the countryside as an extra larder. In many places, where farming is non-existent, people harvest mushrooms to sell by the side of the road to subsidise their income.
Collecting wild herbs (Image: Guy Moore)
They mainly sit by the one main-road, which goes through the whole of Armenia, and will sell the fresh mushrooms to people in passing cars and hungry lorry drivers. In the towns you can find little markets where people meet to sell and trade their herbs with each other.
Selling and trading wild and cultivated herbs and vegetables in an Armenian market
The plants they are selling are as diverse as the people selling them. You get all the usual vegetables, like radishes and onions, but soon you discover that there are more exotic herbs on the menu. Small tender shoots of polygonatum are for sale, in handy little bunches, which no-one who knows the plant in the UK would think of eating.
Mallow-like wild vegetable
Nice young leaves of a mallow-like plant were being sold, alongside large young shoots of Heracleum for pickling. Nothing it seems goes unnoticed in the countryside that might be of use. Allium paradoxum, which in this country is a pernicious weed, in Armenia they use extensively in cooking, thus controlling its rampant move across the countryside. Not a single herb which can be used medicinally is left untouched.
Left, Young shoots of Heracleum on sale, and right, Allium paradoxum
Thyme, for use as a tea, is also very popular and a complete mountain range has been named after it called the Urtz, which is situated in the middle of Armenia. Most of the herbs are cooked by first frying, and then adding to beaten egg, making a sort of vegetable scrambled egg. Other herbs are prepared with a salty brine, in which they are cured for a couple of months before being eaten as a compliment to meat and other vegetables. It seems that collecting herbs and vegetables in the hills is a family event; mum and daughter going out and collecting the herbs for their own use, and also teaching the new generation which ones are good to eat and what to do with them.
Wild medicinal herbs for sale
This is my last Armenian blog. The trip was sponsored by a travel scholarship from the Alpine Garden Society which sponsors several alpine related trips every year.
- Kit -