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Foglie mischiate (mixed leaves) A simple and delicious rustic recipe, which dates back to the age of the Emperor Frederick II.
It is made with wild herbs
by Dario Ersetti
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Mixed leaves. A recipe loved by the Emperor Frederick II. Photo by Dario Ersetti

Spring is the ideal season for walks in the countryside and also for gathering wild herbs, something which needs a great deal of patience and a quick eye; so it is better to start gathering herbs with someone who is already experienced.

In Salento, where they are common on fallow land as well as near dry walls, one can collect the blossoms of Jerusalem sage (Phlomis fruticosa), which are then left to dry in the shade, in a ventilated room, placed on racks. The dried blossoms are left in hot water in an infusion in order to obtain a sweet, fresh drink, otherwise they can be sucked as soon as they are collected, as they are very sweet.

On fallow land one can collect “mixed” herbs, such as the dandelion in its manifold varieties: the cicoreddhe (wild chicory), wild poppy or red poppy (known in Salento as paparina), nettle and other plants.

Excellent is Silene vulgaris (bladder campion), in Italian known as strigoli and as cauleddu in some areas of Salento. Very widespread but also unknown as an edible plant in most parts of Puglia. The tops of the plants and pulpy leaves are perfect for an omelet, a risotto or simply boiled and dressed with a little extra-virgin olive oil and a few drops of lemon juice, or even raw, in a mixed salad. In short, they can be used the same way as spinach.

Boiled dandelion buds are a delicacy when dressed with a little olive oil and a little lemon juice. The elegance and the delicacy of this dish are directly proportional to the difficulty of collecting them!

Mixed herbs, the so-called “foglie mischiate” (mixed leaves), were very much appreciated by the Emperor Frederick II Hohenstaufen, stupor mundi, when he visited his beloved Salento. They can be cooked in various ways, with pork or on their own. The recipe we suggest is the most typical spring recipe. As a side-dish it occupies a lot of space on the plate and should be combined with a good dish of mixed boiled meat, but it can also be regarded as a second course or as a main course on its own. When it was a rustic dish it was dressed with much more olive oil and used to accompany abundant portions of homemade bread.


The recipe


4 servings:


- 800 g of cleaned vegetables

- 100 g of onion

- 150 g of tomatoes

- 50 g of extra-virgin olive oil

- 50 g of grated Pecorino cheese

- salt

- 1 hot chili pepper


Wash the vegetables and boil them in abundant salted water. In a pan slightly fry the onions cut into thin slices in olive oil, add the tomatoes and the chili pepper cut into small pieces and leave to cook for about ten minutes. Drain the vegetables (not too much) and place them in the pan, mix them and leave so that they acquire the flavor of the other ingredients for approximately twenty minutes, adding some salt if needed. When ready, add the cheese, mix and serve.

The vegetables should not be too dry but slightly watery.

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