A notebook, a pen and a mobile phone for taking pictures, almost all the participants on the botanical walk carry these basic elements with them. For over two hours, a small group of about ten nature lovers follow Miriam Demelsa along a route of medicinal and edible wild plants on a beautifully sunny spring day. This time, the walk begins at the Parral bridge in Jarandilla de la Vera, but each month Miriam changes her route, thus adapting to the plants available according to the time of year.
One only needs to walk a few meters to find a first interesting plant, which goes unnoticed by any passer-by in the city. It is a sorrel. It is an edible plant that we can use in our salads in which has a high vitamin C content. The taste of its little leaf is somewhat acidic, and almost everyone in the group likes it. Sharing her knowledge is one of Miriam’s pleasures. Daughter and granddaughter of shepherds and farmers, she took her first steps in the mountains and on the plains of La Vera. After a few years abroad, where she learned to speak fluent English, she returned to her hometown of Villanueva de la Vera, where she specialized in phytotherapy. She treasures all the mysteries of the plants in the area. “From a very young age I learned which plants I could eat and which ones were used for healing. Even then I knew what to collect and the precise moment to do it,” says Miriam.
This young mother of three children invites us to enjoy from the smallest plants at ground level to the largest and majestic trees that grow in the mountains. “La Vera has rounded landscapes, with soft curves that offer a wide palette of colors in both spring and autumn. Here all our senses are on alert, not only our sight, but also our smell and taste. We are lucky to have a greatly varied vegetation here. Remember that we have 2,149 meters level difference between the valley and the highest peaks,” says Miriam.
On our spring walk, we find lots of wild Spanish lavender, with which we can make Lavender Oil. Not far off, we come across white nettle, a plant typical of more humid soils. Miriam regards the white nettle as the queen of the kitchen. Its fresh leaves, with a high calcium content, can be used to make a pesto, or to make a creamy soup. You can also dry the leaves and then add them to salads
Miriam not only talks about the medicinal or edible virtues of the different herbs and flowers, but also tells us the legends around and the personality of each plant. We discovered, for example, that hawthorn, which has tiny white flowers, is often used for infusions, and was the Celts’ sacred tree. “Here they are shrubs, but in England they are trees as big as our oaks,” says Miriam. Another tree catches our eye, it is the mimosa. It appears at the first ray of light in February, when most trees still have no leaves: «Before, La Vera was full of mimosa. We also call it the carnival flower. It is a plant whose yellow flower is edible, I put it in salads or you can make jelly with it, but be careful,” Miriam warns, “it is a very seductive plant but then you cannot separate yourself from it, it is invasive.”
Along the way, we discover more plants such as the Shepherd’s Bag, the plantain with its elongated leaves that can be incorporated into an orange salad, or the wild mustard, with little yellow flowers that can also decorate salads. At the end of the walk, we are left wanting to try these wild plant recipes, the ingredients of which are offered to us by the generous lands of La Vera de Gredos.
Botanical Walks with Miriam Demelsa (available in English)
Phone: +34 680 963 434