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Ibiza's wild and seasonal foods

Pick some up today

Ibiza really does have a richness of wild and seasonal foods, which can be had for free, or very little in peak season. You can forage for food when out and about in the countryside, either by doing your own thing or going on one of the many organised walks across the island. Wandering into someone's garden to pick any wild food is a no-no of course. If you see a groaning tree with a bounteous harvest or a big display of wild asparagus in these locations, remember to ask before picking.


Wild fennel

The sight of these tall light green plants is very commonly seen on the roadsides whilst driving around Ibiza. It is probably the most common wild herb that grows on the island. You'll find it used with dark green olives in the markets of Ibiza Town, Santa Eulalia and San Antonio and in small delis across the island. The yellow flowers of the wild fennel are actually seeds and make the principal ingredient of the iconic island drink, Hierbas. You can make a pasta sauce with the fennel stalks and seeds or simply steep in hot water for a yummy digestive infusion.


Wild rosemary and wild thyme

Usually to be found at the edges of and inside forests or by the roadside, you can pick what you need to enliven a salad or for roasting meats whilst drinking in the divine aroma. Get yourself whole branches of the herbs to add to a barbecue and infuse your grill with deep flavour. Top tip: pine cones, which are often to be found nearby, make an excellent firelighter. The herbs are also much used in the natural cosmetics sold at the island's many markets too.


Wild Swiss chard

A close second to Spinach in nutrition terms, these wild plants can be found right now in Ibiza and are part of a Pantheon of widely used Mediterranean vegetables. Slightly darker and fuller of flavour than the chard you'll find in shops, there's literally a tonne of things you can use it for. Try adding to a tortilla or simply boil briefly and add soy sauce and a little toasted sesame oil as a starter or side dish. It makes a tasty alternative to super-foods like kale and beetroot and best of all it's totally free.


Oranges and lemons

Ibiza is chock full of lemon and orange groves and as you drive by, you'll see many houses boasting at least a couple of trees with either fruit. If you are used to conventionally –grown oranges or lemons (i.e. farmed) then these fruits will turn your head. You can buy local oranges and lemons in all the greengrocers and markets and some supermarkets stock them – look for the Ibiza label. We got some very juicy oranges from San Jorge (Sant Jordi) second hand market last week and have only just finished them. The lemons are amazing for their fragrance and are the closest to Sicilian ones that I have ever found.


Wild asparagus

One of the most eagerly awaited times of year is when the island's wild asparagus is ready to harvest in March and April. It's a tradition that dates back 2000 years and all the locals get involved so you may need to loo harder. Some greengrocers will stock them, but not regularly, so get into the wild. Boil quickly or roast and you'll be quickly rewarded with their deep flavour. They just need olive oil, salt and lemon. They are also to be found growing by the roadside and often along the old stone walls and terracing that dot the Ibiza countryside.


Almonds

Spain is the world's second largest grower of almonds after California and in Ibiza; the almond industry is very old. Until recently there was no cracking machine, but thanks to local fundraising, the farmer's cooperative in San Antonio now has one. This means that the farmers receive significantly more money for almonds without shells. They are rich and creamy and have a distinct fresh taste when collected from the tree. The sight of almond blossom during February is one of Ibiza's most beautiful sights. You'll find them in the markets and in fruterías, or greengrocers across the island.


Carob

Eating carob is a natural way of reducing cholesterol levels and lowering blood pressure whilst enjoying a naturally sweet tasty treat. You'll see the dark brown pods hanging from the trees across Ibiza. Traditionally it was feed for livestock, which must be extra tasty after a diet of this plant. You'll find it in chocolate bars and as a spirit in shops. Chris Dews of Casita Verde fame produces a carob syrup that can be bought from the Saturday market in Forada. It's rich in magnesium and is similar in the nutritional profile of raw cacao powder, minus the caffeine.


Figs

Figs are to be found hanging from giant trees across Ibiza and have grown here since they were introduced to the White Isle, most likely by the Moors. You would really need permission to pick figs from the landowner since nobody wants a stream of people picking fruit off their trees, surfeit or not. July and August are perfect times for buying the fresh fruit from fruit and vegetables markets and at many hippie markets too. The dried version can be found in the same places all year round, Try them with room temperature blue cheese as a starter or with yoghurt and honey for a delicious breakfast.


Tomatoes

Can you imagine Spanish or any Mediterranean cuisine without the tomato? Me neither and Ibicenco food too makes great extraordinarily great use of this tasty globe. Summer is the best time to buy big green salad tomatoes dripping with juice. If you want to make a sauce, then get the smaller, redder and softer varieties, which are piled high and sold cheap and are much fuller of flavour for cooking. Rub on chewy toast (Pan Gallago baguettes are best for this) or simply eat grilled or raw with a little salt.

What are you waiting for – get out and try for yourself the best of what Ibiza has to add to your table.


WORDS | Julian Heathcote

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