“Fava can also find its way into the stuffing of a very distinctive dolma which is made with cyclamen leaves.

The dolmades with cyclamen leaves are found in the islands of Dodecanese. The preparation that follows is from Symi island. A similar recipe is common in Rhodes, though it contains lentils instead of lathyrus. Of course one can prepare these dolmades using vine leaves even if their taste is altered.”

Just when you thought you’d reached the end of the dozens of different leaves that are stuffed around the world, here’s another. I can’t wait to try it next time I have a cyclamen on hand. This, including a recipe and more on fava beans, from the blog History of Greek Food.

EDIT.  Mariana sent me this comment which I’m copying here in case readers don’t scroll down to the comments.

“In ancient years the cyclamen was especially known for its medical virtues (it contains a powerful purgative poison). Its tuberous Rhizomes (thickened roots) have cyclamin which is  a toxic saponin, so never try to eat them. The leaves of Cyclamen graecum have a bitter- sweet taste.
The best known florist’s cyclamen, Cyclamen persicum, is an important edible wild plant in Iran and Palestine. Its leaves are also cooked filled with rice, minced mutton meat, spices and eaten with yogurt (Palestinian Za’ matoot, Iranian dolme). I do not know if the leaves of this species have different taste.
However, the Greek cyclamen recipe is old and almost forgotten. In fact, the use of local Mediterranean food plants stands at a crucial point. As you know, Eastern Mediterranean communities were very much centered around cultivated and wild food both for subsistence and profit. After World War II the consumption of wild plants and seeds changed following the socio – economic changes. Unfortunatelly the amazing traditional knowledge regarding wild plants resources has not been infused to the young generations and I wonder if it already is on the brink of disappearance.”

Well, it’s the florists’ cyclamen that I know of course.  But for anyone who is interested in food history, or who is interested in local foods, foraging and the like, this is gripping information.  The disappearance of plants from the diet because they can’t be commercialized or don’t taste quite good enough or become thought of as animal feed has happened through history.  It’s probably happening faster now as Mariana indicates.  But there are counter trends too.  In Mexico there is a lot of interest in finding ways of cultivating formerly wild plants and of preserving niches in the diet  or even finding new ones.

This was just one of two particularly interesting posts that dealt with the foods of the islands of the eastern Mediterranean that popped up on my computer yesterday. The other from the blog Organically Cooked deals with survival food in Crete, psomi me ladi, bread and olive oil, an interesting and non-romanticised look at one aspect of the “Mediterranean diet.”

The absolute basic, fall-back foods of a cuisine are always interesting. I never experienced times as hard as those Maria Verivaki reports. I think, though, the fall-back food for my English family would have been bread and a bit of hard cheese (and, of course, ultimately just bread and water). “Hard cheese” was the English expression for “tough luck.”

Olive oil was a huge luxury. It could only be obtained in tiny and expensive bottles about four inches high from Boots the Chemist (pharmacist) and it was supposed to be used only as a medicine.

We drizzled over the first lettuce from the early summer garden with a bit of salt (never vinegar as that would have masked the flavor) as a very special treat. No sloshing of EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) into the cooking pan.

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