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Vitalpina Hotels Südtirol

No herb sprouts from which healing power does not flow

01.06.2017 - by Vitalpina Hotels Südtirol
Category: Gastronomy
Humankind has known about the healing effects of certain herbs for thousands of years. In fact, many home remedies still in use today are based upon the healing effects of herbs. But beneficial plants are used not only in healing but also in the kitchen, where they enhance flavors in a natural way. Many wild herbs thrive in South Tyrol’s beautiful natural landscapes, especially in its mountains. It is thus only natural that some of the Vitalpina Hotels cultivate their own herbs, and that they offer guests treatments, cooking courses, activities, beauty/spa elements and delicious foods that revolve around the world of herbs.

One hotelier who is particularly experienced with herbs is Gunter Holzner, the chef at the Vitalpina Hotel Waltershof in Val d’Ultimo/Ultental. He spoke to us about gathering herbs, about herb-themed hikes and about what Good King Henry has to do with cooking.

How marked is the difference between fresh herbs and dried ones for use in cooking?
Generally we use only fresh herbs. The flavor of fresh herbs, the richness of their vitamins and minerals, their quality as ingredients and their aromas are simply not comparable to dried herbs; dried herbs certainly cannot be seen as substitutes.

Which wild South Tyrolean herbs do you prefer when cooking?
South Tyrol offers a rich array of wild herbs, nearly all year round. My favorites are Good King Henry, nettle, thyme, bladder campion, lady’s mantle and yarrow.

When and where do you find these herbs?
From May to autumn, we source wild herbs in the vicinity of the hotel; the rest we find on special herb walks in the alpine meadows of Val d’Ultimo.

What healing effects do these herbs have in the kitchen and also in general?
Good King Henry leaves are rich in minerals, and thus strengthen the blood and can help resolve skin problems. Nettle is a real power pack: its leaves are small factories, packed with valuable ingredients, and its seeds contain high-quality proteins and fatty acids. Thyme is the “poor man’s antibiotic” (as it used to be known). It has a soothing effect on the respiratory tract; used as a tea, it also helps with stomach and intestinal complaints. In the hotel kitchen we use bladder campion, lady’s mantle and yarrow in wild-herb salads, soups, purees, various types of risotto, breads and other delicious dishes.

When and how often do you offer herb hikes?
Grandma Evi – our “herb witch” – takes our guests on special hikes twice a week: they find, collect and taste wild herbs. The freshly picked herbs are served with the salad buffet at dinner; they are also used in preparing the evening menu, and made into teas or Schnapsl.

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