Monday, 10 September 2012

Bladder Campion - a common edible plant


Bladder Campion

An edible wild flower


Bladder Campion (Silene vulgaris) is a common wild flower in the Pink and Campion family (Caryophyllaceae). It has attractive white flowers carried in inflated bladders, hence its name, and it is of importance as an edible wild plant that can be gathered by foragers.
Bladder Campion grows in many parts of Europe, in the UK, and is also found throughout North America where it is often considered as a weed.

Bladder Campion described

Bladder Campion grows in grassy places and reaches 1-2 ft in height. It is a perennial plant that can often be found along the sides of pathways, roadsides and at the edges of fields. It is a dainty-looking wild flower when in full bloom.
In the UK it flowers between June and August and produces distinctive flower-heads that are easily identifiable due to the inflated calyxes that form the bladders which the plant gets it name from. After flowering its tiny brown seeds are contain in seed-capsules inside the bladder-coating which shrivels with age.

Bladder Campion in the kitchen

Bladder Campion has been a popular free food in parts of Spain and the leaves of the plant were even collected for sale as "collejas." The collectors were known as "collejeros" and they had to gather a sizeable amount of the greens to make their efforts worthwhile.

The young leaves and tender shoots are good in salads but older leaves are usually cooked by frying or boiling. They can also be added to soups, stews and omelettes.

Cooked chickpeas with Bladder Campion greens. Photo by Xufanc.

"Gazpacho viudo" (Widower gazpacho) is the name of a soup made in the La Mancha region of Spain. This gazpacho is made by stewing the leaves and it is served with flatbread. The reference to widower is because this soup was traditionally only eaten when times were hard and food was scarce.
Bladder Campion leaves and young shoots can be cooked with chickpeas to make a stew known as "potaje de garbanzos y collejas," with scrambled eggs as "huevos revueltos y collejas" and simply cooked and served with rice, or "arroz con collejas" as the dish is known in Spanish.
According to Wikipedia, the plant is popular too in Crete where it is called "Agriopapoula" (Αγριοπάπουλα), and the leaves and shoots are eaten after browning in olive oil.
Richard Mabey gives the Bladder Campion a B category as an edible plant in his forager's Bible Food For Free. This is an excellent book if you want to learn about the wealth of fruits, nuts, wild flowers, herbs and fungi that can be found in the countryside and are safe to use in the kitchen. And there is more useful information on foraging here.
Copyright © 2012 Steve Andrews. All Rights Reserved.



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