Libereso Guglielmi: a gardener in the kitchen

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He has hands marked by working the land and a face darkened by the sun. Libereso Guglielmi, born in Bordighera in 1925, lived so many lives in one that one book is not enough to re-tell everything. Considered one of the biggest botanical experts in the world, a student of Mario Calvino, father of Italo, Libereso is a great teacher who knows how to re-tell simple anecdotes linked to the Calvino family and curious tales about every small plant with the same simplicity as great philosophical ideas about the meaning of life and the search for happiness. “Lay down on the grass and when you feel the joy of the land at the birth of a seed you will be a happy man” a Lama confided in him during one of his journeys of discovery. And with this spirit Libereso Guglielmi has lived until now, in complete harmony with the natural world.

Lay down on the grass and when you feel the joy of the land at the birth of a seed you will be a happy man

In his garden in Sanremo, which has now become a jungle, you can find seeds and plants which he has collected during his journeys all over the world. During his varied life he has accumulated bags of vast mixed knowledge which has led him to a profound knowledge of plants and flowers, including their edible side, put to the test during his whole vegetarian life.

The key to a long life? Eat flowers and spontaneous plants: wisteria, for example, is great in a salad, whilst elderflowers and acacia are nice fried

Thanks to his advice on the use of spontaneous herbs in the kitchen, we discover that with daisies you can make a fragrant salad with a drop of extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, while the delicate blossoms of the dandelion, a plant grass full of health benefits, can be eaten in batter. With borage flowers you can make a sauce to accompany cheeses, nettles make great croquettes and with mint and wild raspberry leaves you can make a refreshing herbal tea with digestive qualities.

Simple, tasty dishes, all made with ingredients that can be found on a trip to the countryside. Among the herbs that we have in our meadows there are at least 200 varieties of edible plants that we do not know about. The best places to find herbs are dry-stone walls, where you can be sure that no animals have passed.

Reading Libereso’s recipes also means a journey through the western Ligurian villages: we start with the Apricale stuffed potatoes, then mashed Perinaldo chestnuts, Badalucco sauce and the ciausun of Bajardo.

Through the words, gestures and books of Libereso, the poet of flowers, trees, and fruits, who seems straight out of a the novel by Calvino The Baron in the Trees, we learn that you can get to 87 years old with eyes which still shine with curiosity.

A holiday-like air all year round, even when I’m working or curiously strolling around Genoa, my adoptive city.…

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