I made the acquaintance of the rock samphire, Crithmum maritimum L., when I was a child, playing with the sand and climbing on the reefs. At a first glance it almost seemed a Kalanchoe, a semi-succulent plant, but crumpled between my fingers it immediately made itself known for that pungent and unmistakable scent that would have accompanied me until the evening, indelible on my soft skin.
Rock samphire should not be confused with marsh samphire (genus Salicornia).
English samphire derives from sampiere, from French samphire (mid 16th century), “herbe de Saint Pierre” – that is “St Peter(’s herb)” -.
This name because St Peter is the patron saint of fishermen, who often harvested the plant.
In Italian it is called (s)paccasassi, meaning it breaks rock, or also in dialect bacicci, but mostly is known with its common name of sea fennel or critmo from the botanical binomial name.
It belongs to the same family of fennel, to which it is similar, Umbelliferae.
It lives on the coasts, among the cracks of the rocks, the old walls encrusted with salt or on the ruins, as long as exposed to sea water.
It should not be confused with the corky-fruited water-dropword, Œnanthe pimpinelloides L., of which only leaves are edible, often used as a seasoning for soups.
Traditionally used to make soda, today rock samphire has been rediscovered in the kitchen.
The plant is entirely edible, but mainly leaves and flowers are eaten, foraged in May and June; seeds too, to be harvested in August and September.
Its leaves are rich in vitamin C, so much that sailors, devoted to St Peter, used them to fight scurvy and for this virtue they considered rock samphire a protective charm: hence the name of St Peter’s grass.
In summer, fresh flowers are delicious in salads and excellent with fish. Seeds, instead, stimulate appetite and digestion; they can flavour baked food, both savoury and sweet, but also used in several kinds of tea.
I like to use them infused in vegetal milk, such as almond’s, to prepare an alternative and fragrant version of the classic panna cotta; and if you are on the coast with your camping gas stove you can easily prepare it with the help of a thickening agent like carrageenins, a seaweed you can easily find on UK shores.
In Apulia, South Italy, rock samphire is among the ingredients of very simple popular recipes, mostly preserved in vinegar or extra-virgin olive oil.
With my grandmother, who taught me to use this plant, we foraged its leaves and stems. We left them a few hours in the sun to dry, and after we cleaned them well with a cloth, filled a jar and covered with vinegar, “the good one” from a mother tracing back to our ancestors. After a couple of days rock samphire was ready, perfect as a seasoning or as it is, as an appetizer on sourdough bread roasted on the grill in the fireplace.
But I also remember the easiest way, the simplest yet effective, a magic: I remember as if it were yesterday a summer evening, the glass jar resting on a shelf of the pantry, flooded by the sunset light, ready to welcome the fragrant wild plant. My grandmother simply filled the jar with salted water, collected from the sea and filtered, diluted with water from the well. The only trick was that rock samphire needed to be under the level of water. She covered the jar with a cloth and after a couple of days it was ready.
You may want to try the simpler recipe, just with water – preferably not directly from the tap, it intereferes with fermentation, so let it rest for a night in a glass bottle before – and a tablespoon of sea salt. Just shake the jar with rock samphire in, let it stay away from heat for a couple of days, and it’s ready.
You can ferment it alone, or add a bit of wild garlic (leaves will work), or parsley.
Rock samphire in LAB (lacto-acid bacteria) is extremely good for your gut: recent studies have demonstrated that probiotics and prebiotics developing in the process of fermentation help to heal issues linked to digestion and enhance properties of the plant/food involved. In this case, vitamin C will be easily available and will raise your immune system defense by eating something awesome!
Last but not least, you can also blanch just foraged rock samphire in unsalted boiling water, and then simply season it with oil and lemon juice. It is usually served as a side dish, but also to season cold pasta or boiled potatoes.
Pikniq is the first and only restaurant in Italy to offer plant-based wild food, foraged in the right places and following recipes of tradition and our ancestors. It is also a bed and breakfast in the woods near the lake of Como.
Surface: 8,44 kmq Height: from 460 to 877 m. above sea level
Inhabitants: about 1708; they are called collesi Province: Lecco Postal code: 23886
Patron saint: St. Michael (celebrated on September 29th)
Climate: average seasonal temperatures are minimum 4° C and maximum 17° C in spring; minimum 10° C and maximum 32° C in summer; minimum 2° C and maximum 10° C in autumn; minimum -10° C and maximum 5° C in winter.
History of the place Colle Brianza already has an outstanding importance in its name. Tradition suggests, in fact, that the name Brianza was born precisely in the area of this ancient village, halfway between the Lake of Lecco and Milan, to widen later to the entire territory that today is thus identified.
Etymology The name Brianza seems to derive from the Celtic brig “hill; high ground”, which is still preserved with the same even today, most in the bricch form, in many dialects of Northern Italy, including the brianzolo.
Colle is a village of unchanged beauty, tracing back to past centuries and which, following the uncontaminated charm of its surrounding nature, has been since its foundation a place of meditation and strong spirituality.
Since Roman times it seems, in fact, that in the area of Colle Brianza a temple dedicated to Jupiter was located – from which would derive the toponym Giovenzana, one of the hamlets of the village -, and one to Giano – on the Monte San Genesio, which would derive its name from the two-faced god -.
Some medieval documents show the importance of the Church of San Vittore and of the other three churches then present in the town. Today the strong spirituality of Colle Brianza is witnessed by its eleven churches (so many for only one village!) and by the several chapels and ædiculas scattered over fields, houses and streets.
Of course Colle was not a village dedicated only to religion and spirituality: many are the elements suggesting that here passed an ancient road of communication, a strategic artery that connected the forts of Monte Barro and Santa Maria Hoé and which allowed to avoid the underlying marshy areas. The area of Colle Brianza became the crossroads between important fortresses, and over the centuries it saw the rise of various hamlets, places of commerce such as the Università del Monte and rest places such as Tegnone, Nava and Cagliano. Precisely, these residential areas give life to Colle, merging into a single municipality in 1927.
Located in an elevated position, suitable for controlling the underlying areas, in the Middle Ages Colle itself became a place of fortifications and, since 1200, it seems that the peak of Monte di Brianza was called Castellaccio (i.e. “great castle”), evidence of the presence of fortresses and bastions in the area. Probably remnants of defense systems, moreover, are still visible today, such as the Tor in Bestetto and the Campanone complex.
Probably residues of defense systems, moreover, are still visible today, such as the Tor di Bestetto and the Campanone complex.
Today Colle is a quiet and welcoming village, ideal for cultural and naturalistic walks, a perfect place for those seeking a break from the daily routine. Many are the natural trails, among ancient rural settlements, churches in the countryside, Woods and country paths, magnificent views like Monte Crocione, highest peak in the area and favourite destination for cyclists.
Elements of Roman and medieval culture, from toponymy to the architecture of the town, make Colle a unique place, among the most suggestive of the entire Lecco area, framed by Woods and meadows whose colors are unmissable in every season of the year.
Colle Brianza – hamlet by hamlet
Colle is composed of ancient and evocative rural nucleuses, its hamlets, which can be considered the true heart of the town, starting with Bestetto, one of the oldest districts. Already tracing back to the XII century there is written evidence of its existence, and from 1200 to 1300 the presence of a community of Umiliati is attested.
Equally interesting is Nava, where you can find the town hall, whose origin, discussed and uncertain, is lost in the charm of the past centuries.
In the Middle Ages it was often confused with the Monte di Brianza and, probably, its Origins are in the strategic Communication route between Monte Barro and Santa Maria Hoé.
Ravellino, formerly known as Tegnone, is on a route of outstanding interest since ancient times and became, over time, a very important center of trade and rest. Its history is testified since the XIII century, a time when, as several notarial documents attest, there were a market, a hospital with a small church dedicated to Saint Mary and another community of Umiliati. There was a church dedicated to St. Hyacinth too.
In 1860 Ravellino changed its name from Tegnone, adopting the name of the spring that feeds the fountain of the village.
In 1577 in Ravellino the important historian Giuseppe Ripamonti was Born and a plaque is today affixed to his birthplace.
The hamlet of Cagliano seems to be of Latin origin: its name, in fact, seems to derive from Callis Ianus, that is “pedestrian route to the temple of Janus”, situated in San Genesio. The village was probably settled as a centre to accomodate garrisons to control the valley below.
The latin dominus is linked to the birth of Giovenzana and its patron saint, San Donnino, of which we don’t have any definite information. The church of this hamlet dates back to around 1600 (the parish was established in 1609), but already in the 1400s it is mentioned in documents as an autonomous municipality.
Also fascinating are the other hamlets of the town: Piecastello (suggesting it was on the foot of a castle), Scerizza, Scerizzetta (their toponyms suggest the extraction activity of serizz, a kind of granite) and Panizzera.
Places of interest Colle Brianza offers corners and places of interest both for culture enthusiasts and for lovers of relaxing walks.
Each village and every hamlet in the area is characterized by suggestive rural buildings, linked to a past still perfectly preserved for example by attractive churches and ædicolas, and of course naturalistic views.
Built in 1937 and blessed in the same year by the then parish priest of Nava Don Antonio Prandoni. Its previous cross was replaced, given its advanced state of deterioration, in the early nineties and the current one received the blessing from Monsignor Giuseppe Molinari. Mount Crocione is 879 metres high.
Terminon The hamlet marks the border between the municipalities of Colle Brianza, Valgreghentino and Galbiate. The Madonnina dell’Alpe chapel was built in 1994 in memory of the hard work in the woods of the inhabitants of the village.
Monte di Brianza
With its 889 metres above sea level, the highest point of the area is also the highest in the whole Brianza.
San Donnino Church in Giovenzana We don’t have historical information about this patron saint. The Church dates back to the XVII century and since 1609 it is a parish.
The Tor The Tower of Bestetto, of which today only remnants can be seen, traces back to the Middle Ages.
Its place and surroundings (the road that from Castello leads to Colle) suggest it was part of a fortress built in ancient times to protect Monte Brianza.
The church of San Martino a Bestetto A small church of exquisite workmanship, in medieval manuscripts it is often confused with the church of Santa Maria in Tegnone.
The inscription found on a lateral beam, which shows the year 1213, places its construction in full medieval age.
However, the first written document that mentions it correctly dates back to 1567, and the presence of a baptistery is also attested.
Church of Nava dedicated to St. Michael and the Holy Family
A real mix of different influences.
The church dates back to the 16th century, but the interior decoration is from the early 20th century.
The bell tower, erected in the last century, stands on a quadrangular base of an older tower, dating back to the 12-13th century.
However, the real attraction is inside the sacristy: a precious sixteenth-century painting on wood with an unusual subject: “The allegory of the Eucharistic wine”. At the center of the table is the patriarch Noah who plants a vine, the apostles who collect the branches, then pressed by Saint Peter. In a tub lies the Christ above which the cross is screwed; from his wounds blood spurts.
The scene of the closing of the barrels by a king and some high prelates takes place in a dark atrium, perhaps to emphasize the environment of corruption of the church of that period.
Above is depicted the story of a young man who knocks on the door of a convent, prostrates himself before a friar and, finally, dressed the priestly habit, he distributes the Eucharist as wine.
The lavatoio in Ravellino The historical and cultural importance of this wash-house is given by the base in granite of the smaller basin, which might be the cover of a sarcophagus and dates back to the early Middle Ages.
Church dedicated to the Madonna della Cèriola in Ravellino
It probably dates back to the 16th century. Inside there is a precious altarpiece from the early 17th century depicting the presentation to the Temple of Jesus and the purification of Mary. Cèriola derives from cera (“wax”), and it has the same meaning of that of Candlemas, and refers thus to the Purification of the Virgin (February 2nd).
Madonna del Sasso
The sanctuary of the Madonna del Sasso (“Madonna of the Stone”) was erected in the last century to commemorate the apparition of the Virgin on July 23rd, 1657 to Mrs Giovanna Fumagalli. The testimonies say that the Madonna appeared three times in the so-called “valley of Sapelli” and worked miraculous healings, recorded in the parish archive of Giovenzana. Among the attested miracles of the miraculous water that flows at the Church of the Madonna del Sasso in Cagliano, there is one that interests a woman from the parish of Cassago. In the “Diary of the received graces” from the parish of Giovenzana, we find the list of miracle facts, which were also publicly showed on a plaque at the entrance of the church. Number Nine reads: “Margherita Cazzaniga, from Cassago, possessed, visited the place and drank the water with the dust of the stone where the Virgin appeared. She left free in the presence of many people”. The site of the apparition of the Virgin in Cagliano is on the back of the Santuario del Sasso. The apparition of 1657 is frescoed inside a votive chapel that was built during the 18th century.
In 1882 a statue of a “dressing” Madonna was donated to the church from the church of san Zeno in Olgiate Molgora. It replaced the statue of the Madonna which was destroyed by the fire that broke out a short time before in the church of the Madonna del Sasso, which is a short distance from the junction between the paths for San Genesio and Campsirago. This sanctuary has been, since the 17th century, one of the main spiritual centers of Brianza, comparable in importance to the sanctuary of the Madonna del Bosco or to the sanctuary of the Madonna di Bevera.
On September 23rd, 1657 the Virgin, according to tradition, appeared to a widow from Cagliano, the above-said Giovanna Fumagalli, while she was grazing her flock of sheep near a stream that flows through the woods above the village, to form a Valley called the “valley of sapelli”.
Sapelli derives from an extinct dialectal form sapél, probably from the Langobardic zeppa, that is a small rise, a wedge.
The miracle of the apparition was repeated two more times, in the following two days. The Madonna left her footprint on a rock, with the symbolic meaning of encouraging the faithful to strengthen their faith by rooting it in prayer and sacrifice as a house with its foundation in stone. During the 18th century a frescoed chapel was first built and then, due to the many graces received, in 1707 Francesco Pizzigalli built the present building, renovated in the 19th century by the Dominican friars. Today’s appearance is the result of the restorations after 1881, the year of the church’s fire.
San Nicola This small church dates back to the 14th-15th century. The first written documents about it, anyway, date back from the 18th century, when the building was extended and restored. Inside there is a statue of St Nicholas, previously in the oratory of San Genesio. The statue of the Madonna del Carmine was made in 1841.
Church of St. Joseph in San Genesio Completely rebuilt by the Camaldolese monks in the 19th century on a previous existing church. The garden next to it is particularly suggestive.
Church in San Materno in Cagliano This church has a well preserved structure and it probably dates back to the 16th century.
Also noteworthy in the area are some old farmhouses, some of them quite well preserved. On one of these you can see a Beautiful shrine of the Madonna.
Today privately owned, the Campanone can be visited in just a few occasions during the year. Many are the ancient manuscripts telling that it was a university (for artisans). The entire building is prior to the 19th century and is of great archaeological importance.
The church of San Vittore dates back to the 13th century and under his altar, in the year 1500, an important epigraph tracing back to the 5th century was found. The church of Brianza was a center of power and with a strong tradition. The Campanone is certainly a remake after the 16th century of a previous tower, whose function today has not been defined yet.
Decorating many of the country farmhouses, the painted icons make Colle one of the few villages to have kept them in such large quantities. Icons were painted to protect families and halp them in their country life. They can be seen, for example, in Scerizza and at farmhouses in L’Alpe and Fumagallo.
It is the most rural of the hamlets of Colle. Its name derives from the Latin sentence Campsi Sirati, meaning “cultivated lands with silos”: a name which seems to confirm the very ancient agricultural tradition of this place. Most likely the small community kept food and crops in deposits (perhaps even underground) and could thus be self-sufficient in all its needs.
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