Flowers on the table: when beauty is good for health

From Dandelion to Elder, all the plants with numerous beneficial properties.

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Article description

Flowers and edible plants have always played an important role in nutrition, obtaining, in 1767, a name in science, that of phytoalimurgy. The literal meaning of this term would be "activity that calms hunger". In fact, this type of diet resumed during the First World Warduring food shortage.
Nowadays this knowledge has been somewhat set aside, but not eliminated, limiting itself to the use of vegetables for their aesthetic rendering in the decoration of dishes and not for their beneficial properties. Among the edible herbs there are some that are very common and that we can find in abundance in Oltrepò Pavese countryside, but be careful not to confuse them with inedible ones. More precisely these are: Dandelion, Parietaria, Nettles, Plantain and Wild Hops.
The Dandelion is a plant the use of which hails from peasant tradition. It is rich in potassium, iron, calcium, vitamins K and C, flavonoids and many other nutrients. Contained from the roots to the flower, they are useful for improving digestion, liver activity and stimulating diuresis, thus having a detoxifying effect on our body.
From the purifying properties are also the Parietaria, the Nettle and the Wild Hops which together with the expectorant function of the first, remineralizing and restorative of the second and, finally, invigorating and refreshing of the third, constitute good, but above all healthy foods to add to your diet.
In addition to these plants we can find equally beneficial and easily available flowers in nature, which often decorate our gardens and parks, such as Robinia. In the past, the extracts of its bark were used as a laxative and its leaves for the preparation of decoctions useful for regulating the functioning of the liver, while its flowers still find space on our tables. Excellent both fried and used for infusions, they are rich in minerals, vitamins and proteins and, thanks to these beneficial properties, they have an anti-inflammatory, astringent and emollient power.
Another flower whose benefits are appreciated is the Rosa Canina. Both the flowers and the berries are edible in the form of herbal teas or jam, the former help to strengthen the immune system, while the latter contain vitamin C and flavonoids with an antioxidant action. 
To enrich your salads, however, you can use Violets, Pratolina and Primrose having respectively diuretic, anti-inflammatory and antirheumatic effects.
Last but not least is Elder, perhaps one of the healthiest plants due to the large number of properties it contains. Among these we can find: diuretic, anti-neuralgic, emollient, antirheumatic, slightly anti-inflammatory, purifying functions and many others. Flowers and bark can be used for decoctions and infusions, while its ripe fruit, otherwise poisonous, is used to prepare jams and various drinks such as juices and liqueurs.

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Flowers and plants of Oltrepò

During walks in the Oltrepò countryside, especially in spring, you can come across many flowers and plants, including medicinal ones. Some, with an intoxicating scent and enchanting appearance, can deceive us because they are not always harmless, especially if you plan to use them in the kitchen.
Dandelion, Wild Hops, Officinal Lavender, Rosehip are just some examples of edible plants which, in addition to being excellent for creating original dishes, have numerous beneficial functions that few know of.
On the contrary, there are many species that do not lend themselves to use in the culinary art, but they feast our eyes on their colors and their beauty.
Find out what there is to know about the plant world, which ones are edible and what properties they hide.