What is the difference between farmed and wild herbs?
Well, in short… mountain!
Herbs are herbs right? You should get a decent quality product in most cases. Farmed or not. But that’s not really how it works.
There are a couple of factors that set farmed products bellow the standards of non farmed ones. Sure they don’t look as good, but looks can be deceiving, specially in this line of work. A shiny perfect looking red apple is usually waxed (yes with wax) and sprayed with all kinds of chemicals. This apple has grown to look perfect (or at least really good), but when you get to the first bite… you get to be a bit disappointed. The taste is not that strong, the consistency feels a bit watery… there is something “off” about it, while in the opposite direction we have an apple that is vulnerable to every condition given by nature: the weather, animals, warms, diseases… you name it. It doesn’t look good. It looks nothing compare to the perfect, red, waxed apple, but when you take your first bite… the taste is so rich… your teeth go through something hard instead of “toilet paper” “appleness”… it’s a whole different experience. And it’s exactly the same thing with all farmed products. Herbs included.
Additionally there are a couple more steps in gathering wild herbs that make it just a tiny bit harder then fruits and vegetables.
We have found a solution to a couple of important problems, such as:
First of all, you have to find them!
Not an easy task I promise you.
Most herbs grow in numbers in certain areas, but a lot of times they are spread across a mountain side or a vast piece of land… where you actually have to look for them.
Once you get close, in most cases you can smell the strong aroma, but one herb from the next one could be quite apart. They are not like mushrooms where they all grow in one spot. I really wish they were! But usually you need a team of several people, looking and harvesting wild herbs (obviously… in the wild).
The most important detail of all, is -of course- the fact that you need a specialist among the team members. There MUST be someone on location, who can identify each and every herb and should be able to tell, which ones is worth harvesting or not.
Secondly, comes a bigger problem. Wild life!
In Crete, there are no big animals that could pose a threat to anyone. Well, almost. You can still get a snake bit or get chased by a herd of wild mountain goats. Sounds funny, I am sure, but unlike the domesticated kind, wild goats are not friendly or scared of people. Should they feel threatened, they will attack. But the problem is not located in Crete. If you are looking for wild herbs in the northern parts of Greece like Kastoria, Ioannina, Grevema, Florina or Kozani, you might come across a bear. In other parts of north Greece like Kavala, Drama, Xanthi etc, it’s common to come across a wolf or a wild boar and of course any kind of snakes each location hosts (plenty of hares too, but thankfully these… don’t go for the throat!).
We came up with a solution for that (at least in Crete).
We relocated wild herbs in privately owned large pieces of land.
For starters, we know in advance where to find them, because we put them there. Secondly, the local wildlife usually stays away from regular traces of humans. Sometimes you have a fence, to do that job, but usually, when a piece of land is too big, the owners don’t bother with installing a fence around it. However, wild goats -which is the only actual threat- usually stay away, which is a relief!
Wild herbs remain… wild. They grow on their own, with absolutely no human touch except from the moment of harvesting, which means that the quality of the product has retained its properties that ensure that quality in the first place.