It’s been long time I’m interested in discovering more about the local plants and its medicinal and culinary uses. Living myself in a mountain forest, surrounded by generous nature, I find it not only interesting but also useful. Finally, we booked a day out with family and friends to enjoy this activity. We were six adults and five children, what allowed us to book a private full day workshop that adults and kids alike not only loved but also learnt a lot from the experience!
We chose the “picking and cooking wild plants (gluten-free, lactose-free)” course. On the program: discovery of wild edible plants, their properties and confusions to avoid, learning techniques of harvesting, conservation and cooking, elaboration of a complete meal with the harvested plants.
Our host and guide, Hélène Lavaux, sent us an attentive email beforehand for us to prepare and come along with good walking shoes, sun cream, slippers, anti mosquito and ticks, notebook, pencil, cap, sunglasses, raincoat, bottle of water and picnic for midday.
We drove to the Chalet des Fées (fairy cottage) located in the heart of the Ormonts Valley, 1150 m above sea level, on the sunny slopes facing the Diablerets massif. We parked our cars in front of the chalet, which is a small corner of nature dedicated to mountain herbals. Once there, our herbalist and caterer fairy, Hélène, welcomed us and explained us the program of the day.
We started the promenade in the surrounding area at 10h00, crossing fields particularly covered by flowers during this season and shady forests. It didn’t take us long and was an easy path. During the morning, she was enlighten us with generous explanations all along the way about all kind of wild plants we were crossing in our path. Her wise advice was not only related to culinary uses, but also medicinal and beauty uses, what we appreciated a lot!
Hélène is trained as an herbalist at the Alchémille School of Medicinal Plants; she has specialized for 5 years in gourmet, organic, gluten-free and lactose-free gourmet cuisine. It offers catering services throughout Switzerland and you can discover the unsuspected wealth of plants in the course of many culinary courses, botanical and galenic or over mountain walks punctuated by plant tales and Alpine legends.
At noon we stopped in a scenic spot on a hill to enjoy our picnic, which kids appreciated a lot!
We continued the walk now picking the plants she talked about in the morning and which we will cook afterwards in the chalet. In our cloth bags there were hogweed, nettles, ground ivy, wild oregano, wild mint, knotweed bistort, flowers. Along the way we did also taste sweet pea flavoured flowers, green potatoes flavoured leaves, and we learned to calm the itching produced by the nettles with the plantain, which grows curiously nearby the nettles. We were excited to discover that about 80% of the wild plants around us are edible! Also discovering those that have real taste and nutritious qualities. During the morning, we learnt to recognize them by avoiding confusion, to know where to pick them, and to harvest them preserving all their vitality.
Back at the chalet at 15h30 we washed our hands and worn our aprons and slippers ready to start the cooking stage. She invites us syrup she has made of wild roots and told us about the dandelion wine she was maturing in some pots.
She lives indeed in a fairy cottage! The Swiss style wooden chalet has a lovely decoration, a comfortable kitchen and living room opening to a large balcony from where we can appreciate Hélène’s garden and vegetables’ patch.
We were sitting in a round receiving the recipes and explications about the cooking time taking place straight away. On the menu we had aubergine caviar with wild oregano and tartar of hogweed stems as starters; savory cake with wild plants as main dish; nettle-chocolate muffins and earth ivy cream as dessert; and wild mint tea to finish the convivial meal.
We share a lovely afternoon cooking in family all those extraordinary ingredients to make a delicious meal that we enjoyed together at the end of the day. The kids participate a lot, taking special care of the muffins, which they hardly share! At around 19h00, we gratefully released Hélène to drive back home with a full belly and in a happy mood.
Price was CHF 120.- per day (evening meal, organic ingredients and recipes included) and CHF 60.- per child under 12 years old.
Wild plants revealed their secrets to us. We discovered their flavours, their perfumes, their virtues, and their benefits. From now on we will give them a place in our daily life to re-enchant our recipes for sure!
Various workshops about edible and medicinal plants are organised throughout the seasons:
- Picking and cooking wild plants
- Manufacture of natural skincare products
- Discovery of plants through storytelling
- Herbalist parties
- Organic, gluten-free and lactose-free cuisine
They supply meals and buffets with wild plants for private or professional events.
Information and registration: https://chalet-des-fees.com/contact/
Chalet des Fées – Chemin de la Lavanche 2, 1864 Vers-L’Eglise, Suisse – 079 954 40 24