They are found in the shadow of the walls. In Villamesías, they abound in olive groves around the town center. Although it is less used nowadays, we are witnessing a resurgence in the use of this plant as a vegetable in our cuisine, thanks to the various editions of the Wild Produce Day.
Conejeras (Silene vulgaris)
The colleja (Silene vulgaris), also known as silena, rabbit grass, farolillo, sanjuanin, berzuela… is a highly appreciated wild edible plant, it is considered one of the finest and most exquisite. Its flowering season begins in spring, it can be found in areas with Mediterranean climate.
The colleja (Silene vulgaris), described by(Moench) Garcke, appearing in the publication Flora von Nord in 1869, is a wild edible plant that years ago was highly appreciated, or at least widely consumed. Although it is a plant that can be adapted to cultivation, it does not seem to be of much interest, there are many edible wild plants that are currently unknown because evidently, they are only found in rural areas, fields, etc., and because they have not been transferred to agricultural production.
In the case of the colleja, we are talking about a perennial plant of the caryophyllaceae family, which flowers in spring and summer. Its flowers are those that gave it its name(Silene vulgaris), its inflated calyx resembles the representation of Silenus (adoptive father and preceptor of Dionysus), always with a swollen belly. Although it is also related to the Greek sialon (slime, saliva…) because of the viscosity of some species.
The colleja is known by many other names, such as silena, hierba conejera, tracabols, farolillos (because its flowers also look like lanterns or bells), sanjuanines, restallones, alcaduceas, berzuela… Its flowers are characteristic, but so are its light green lanceolate leaves.
This plant favors the Mediterranean climate, but is present in Europe, North Africa, Central and West Asia, and apparently also in some areas of North America as an invasive plant.
It grows on unworked land, on crop margins, roadsides, at the foot of poplars and olive trees, near asparagus groves… depends partly on the subspecies, as they are also found in grasslands or on rocky soils. The colleja plant can grow up to 80-100 centimeters, and is a rich vegetable.
If harvested young, it is a very fine vegetable that can be enjoyed raw, both leaves and stems. But perhaps it is much more common to cook the collejas and there are many possibilities, they can be stewed, sautéed, boiled, incorporated into stews, make omelets … the ideal is not to cook them too much, for less than five minutes, thus preserving more of their nutrients and organoleptic qualities.
Although it is a sweet vegetable when young, as time goes by they become somewhat bitter because their saponin content increases. It is better to select the young collejas and enjoy what is considered the finest and most exquisite wild edible plant.