Edible wild plants

Getting to know the region's wild plants

The wild valleys, the Mediterranean climate of the lake and the alpine landscapes all create unique conditions for wild plants and flowers to flourish. A paradise for nature lovers and foragers. Milo Bissegger grew up in the Centovalli area and has botany in his blood. A nature lover and a keen forager of edible wild plants and flowers, he has managed to turn his passion into a career. Among his many activities, he offers courses on native plants and designs natural gardens. Meret Bissegger, the well-known wild plant expert and chef, is his aunt. It was thanks to her that Milo discovered his passion for the plant world.

The biggest and best-known carnival in Ticino
  • A walk in the region's valleys is like shopping in a big supermarket.

  • Nature bursts into life in spring, when the trees are covered in fresh buds, and plants and flowers start sprouting. Not only does this give woods and meadows a magical feel, but it also offers us a wealth of culinary treasures.

  • Nature provides us with all we need, in the kitchen and for medical purposes. Some of the best-known edible wild plants are wild garlic, nettles and dandelions. However, those in the know will find so much more here.

What is an occasional hobby for most is a real passion for Milo, and he has already managed to carve out a career for himself. He satisfies his innate passion by studying and picking wild plants and flowers, with the added bonus of spending time in nature and exploring the many beautiful corners of the Ascona-Locarno region from a different perspective. Botany is an integral part of his everyday life. He first showed an interest in the natural world at an early age: when watering his parents' garden, he used to "talk" to the plants, which thanked him for the water. However, his great interest in nature is not really all that surprising.

His great-grandfather was a well-known botanical illustrator, and his other aunt, Mona Caron, who brightens up massive buildings all around the world with plant murals, is also a great botanist. It takes a lot of time to get to know and study plants. The best way is look carefully at wild plants when out and about, and read books. There is an enormous variety of edible wild plants in Switzerland, and in the Lake Maggiore region especially.

  • Interest in nature and wild plants has exploded in recent years

  • Indeed, restaurants are now offering more and more dishes that contain ingredients coming from plants, flowers or herbs found growing in the wild. One of the most popular of these is wild garlic, which can be used in a variety of ways. But there are countless others found in the forests here, perfect for conjuring up exquisite dishes.

For instance, the young leaves of the linden tree taste great in a salad. Viola odorata (sweet violet) thrives in open woodland. Its flowers are widely used as a garnish and to give a fragrant, colourful touch, especially when added to salads. Plantain leaves can be used like spinach in autumn, while stinging nettle, that classic shade-loving plant, is great in a soup or cake. Milo has a large garden with a wild lawn, teeming with many of his favourite plants. However, if he wants something that does not grow on his doorstep, he knows exactly where to find it. Wild garlic, for example, grows like a carpet in the woods by the river in the Maggia Valley. Its distinctive scent is quite unmistakable. There is just one simple rule: always leave at least half of the plant and have the greatest respect for nature.

Most people with a vegetable patch will often spend hours and hours weeding and uprooting the wild garlic. Little do they know that what they are trying to get rid of could actually be a vitamin-rich delicacy, like chickweed or purslane, both found in almost every garden. However, you must know your plants and only ever eat them if you are 100% sure of what they are.

Want to learn more about the wild plants and flowers found in this region and how they can be used? Sign up for one of Milo or Meret's fantastic courses. Time well spent!


Frittata with wild herb salad

Method for the frittata:
Blanch Urtica dioica (stinging nettle) and Galium aparine (cleavers) and squeeze well to remove the last of the cooking water. Roughly chop plenty of raw, unblanched Allium ursinum (wild garlic) and finely chop a few leaves of Salvia pratensis (meadow clary) to add flavour.

Mix everything in a bowl, together with the eggs, and season to taste. Cook over medium heat with the lid on. Flip over and finish cooking.

How to prepare the wild herb salad:
Combine a finely chopped handful each of the following: Allium ursinum (wild garlic), leaves; Tilia cordata (small-leaved lime), young leaves; flowers of Galium mollugo (hedge bedstraw), Stellaria media (common chickweed), Silene vulgaris (bladder campion), Plantago lanceolata (ribwort plantain) and Taraxacum officinale (common dandelion). Add Rumex acetosa (broad-leaved sorrel) and the tips of Vicia sativa (common vetch). Garnish with the flowers of Viola Reichenbachiana (early dog-violet), Salvia pratensis (meadow clary) and Lunaria annua (annual honesty).

For the dressing:
Extra virgin olive oil, white wine herb vinegar, mustard seeds, a dollop of mayonnaise and natural yoghurt, a pinch of fresh chopped chives, marjoram and oregano from the garden, salt and pepper.

Plan your stay