Book shows how to cook with the weed black bryony in south-west France

‘It’s a local speciality with a taste like nothing else,’ says mayor who published recipe book

Only the new tips of black bryony are edible - the rest of the plant can cause vomiting

The mayor of a village in the south of France has written a recipe book of 25 ways to prepare the weeds known as black bryony.

The weed, known locally as reponchon (in Occitan) or Tamier Commun (in French) is a traditional part of local cuisine and traditional medicine, however for the non-initiated, harvesting and eating it can be risky as black bryony is also potentially poisonous.

However, in an effort to record the local traditions the mayor of Sequestre (Tarn) has written a book of 25 recipes - including some of his own - using the weed, along with guidance on how and when to harvest it.

“I’ve been experimenting with it for many years,” mayor Gérard Poujade told The Connexion.

“It grows all over France, but I can only really speak about how we can eat it in the south-west because the harvest season varies between regions.

“In the Tarn, we harvest it between March and May.”

Somewhat confusingly, the plant is widely known as asperges sauvages (wild asparagus), although it is nothing of the sort.

Like nettles, mature black bryony can irritate the skin with microscopic needles arrayed along its leaves and stem, however even these parts, which cause vomiting when eaten, were traditionally used to heal bruises, strains, torn muscles and gout.

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Mr Poujade's recipes for black bryony muffins, omelettes and soup

“You can only eat the last 20 cm of the plant, just the tips, and only in spring,” said Mr Poujade. “But I wouldn’t compare the taste to asparagus or anything really. It has a taste like nothing else, very bitter.”

“Traditionally, people put it in omelettes and serve it with eggs, but I’ve experimented with muffins, which people seem to love,” said Mr Poujade.

People interested in harvesting black bryony and trying some recipes should take advice from locals, said Mr Poujade, or consider reading his book, available for €9.90 here.