Horta, or ‘weeds’, are a staple in every Greek household and foraging for these leaves is a national pastime. I’ve grown up eating mounds of these greens, lovingly tossed with olive oil and lemon, and nothing makes me happier than collecting them with my yiayia. And if I’m lucky, I get my own bag of weeds to take home.
‘Horta again?’ she wailed to her mum as the plate piled high with freshly steamed greens hit the table.
‘Yes’ came the firm reply. ‘They are so good for you’.
Okay so maybe that child was me. Admittedly I had little appreciation for greens back then but this quickly changed somewhere in my early teens and now I can’t get enough.
Horta, from the Latin word hortus meaning ‘garden’, literally means ‘weeds’ in Greek and encompasses a range of indigenous greens including wild spinach, endive, fennel leaves, dandelions, amaranth and nettles. In the Greek countryside it’s a common sight to see yiayiathes bent over with baskets collecting wild greens. The Greeks were foraging long before René Redzepi made it cool.
Those weeds were plentiful in our house while I was growing up because yiayia would regularly drop around piles of the stuff. The idea of having fresh greens dropped off on a weekly basis seems like such a luxury now.
But I can still get my fill with regular visits to see yiayia. At this time of year it’s the rathikia (dandelion) that’s in full bloom, in a few months it will be vlita (amaranth).
Yiayia is so adept at growing horta that it shoots up energetically, not only from the vegetable bed but from random pockets all over her yard.
On my latest visit, yiayia took her knife and carved out a number of rathikia plants for me. I honestly couldn’t tell if we were collecting greens or weeding the backyard. Read More