Honey, beer, oil, wild and aromatic plants

Aromatic herbs and wild plants

In today's modern Elba cuisine there is a gradual comeback of the aromatic herbs and wild plants to be found anywhere in the low bush and along the ditches. Along with pulses, they were always one of the main ingredients used by farmers in Elba for soups and stews.

The wild garlic used in soups with beans and eggs are delicious, as are the nippleworts and dandilions mostly used with soups, omelettes and salads. As well as Mediterranean rosemary and capers (that grow in abundance in the cracks in the medieval and Medicean fortresses in Elba), other aromatic herbs used for flavouring snails, meat and fish are mostly myrtle and juniper leaves, verbena, wild fennel, calamint and marjoram.

Suggestion from Infoelba: when you get back home after your holiday, make a meal using dried herbs from Elba - especially if they have been chosen and dried by Alessandra (Az.Agr."Il Poggetto") -. The colours, the views, the aromas and the memories of your holiday in Elba will suddenly come back to mind as if by magic.

Bonito in oil

In the past it was caught using loose nets called "palamitare", today palamito is fished locally round the Island of Elba, above all near Capo Enfola, from late spring to early summer, and then from the end of September till the end of November.

The bonito is perfect for a wide variety of dishes, because the flesh has quite a strong but slightly bitter taste, but the best way is in oil.

When done in oil as they do in Elba, it is still prepared and cooked the same way the fishermen of the past used to do it, and today you can buy it in any shop that sells typical products.

An exquisite but simple fish that is very tasty on its own and eaten with just a fork, or added to pasta sauces or even stuffed with vegetables.

Liqueurs and beer

Just like most of the typical products from Elba, liquers too originate from the perfumes of the land. First the traditional lemon and orange liquer that even today is still made following methods of past generations, now you can also find grappas and liquers made from wild fruits and herbs, like the Aleatico and the Moscato grappas, or the Myrtle or Mortella liquer made from mixing myrtle berries with calamint and wild fennel seeds.

In recent years, they have also started making several types ofBeer from Elba, and the most common are flavoured with calamint, chestnuts and honey from Elba.

Oil

Although the art of making extra virgin olive oil lay abandoned for many years, today, fortunately, thanks to the Olivegrowers' Association and its chairman Franco Provenzali, it is slowly becoming popular again, and the oil produced in Elba is well known even on the mainland. In an attempt to bring the abandoned groves back to life and maybe even get the IGP title, in 2007 he contacted the thirteen oil producers on the island and informed them of his idea. The unique, high quality oil that comes from olives crushed the same day they are picked never has more than 0,3 acidity and fears no competitors as regards colour, perfume and taste, perfect for any type of meat or fish dish. There are four different types of olives grown in Elba: "frantoio", "moraiolo", "leccino" and "pendolino", though the "frantoio" is the most widely used.

Honey

Thanks to the vast biodiversity on the Island of Elba, bees can gather the nectar from a vast choice of flowers, and this makes the honey one of the best in all of Tuscany. You can choose from: the transparent Mediterranean widflower honey, or the thinner and less sweet chestnut, or the more common eucalyptus; then there is more sophisticated honey made from rosemary. or thistle, or heather, or lavender, or strawberry-tree berries and helichrysum.

Suggestion from Infoelba: The best honey is produced by the Azienda Agricola Ballini , whose rosemary honey was classified as "The Best Honey in Italy" in the National Competition in Montalcino. Their bees are in more than twenty different places in Elba, and their queen bees are sold in both European and non European countries.

Fruit and Jams

The fruits of the undergrowth have also started to become popular again, so much so that some farms have fished out the abandoned recipes from the grandmothers' "canterali" (chest of drawers) and have started making a wide choice of delicate, fresh fruit jams. you now find jam made with figs, lemon peel, almonds, strawberry tree berries, grapes, elders, and chestnuts, as well as jams enhanced with some wild herbs like verbena, rosemary and lavender.

Photographs byEmiko Davies
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