Spring was in the air yesterday, at least where I live in south east Mallorca. Temperatures rose to 17º Celsius, even 18º in some places; the skies were blue and there was not a cloud in sight over Felanitx.
The Oxalis pes-caprae (Buttercup oxalis or African wood-sorrel) is out and about everywhere in Mallorca at this very moment. Fields and meadows are yellow all over the island. The ubiquitous yellow has a quite soothing effect on our eyes and our minds.
The plant is considered a weed by many, as plants often are, unfortunately. The Oxalis flower originates really from Africa and thus is alien to Mallorcan shores but somehow it has spread all over the South Mediterranean basin. The plant is not seen as a useless weed by the Mallorcan farmers; its virtues are known to be refreshing, diuretic and antiscorbutic.
When our children were little they liked to suck the flower’s stems for their bitter lemony tastes. One has to be cautious though. When eaten in large quantities, the flower has its detrimental side effects; the plant’s oxalic acid contents can bind up the body’s supply of calcium leading to nutritional deficiency. Sheep for instance like to overindulge on the Vinagrella as the flower is called in Catalan; they can sometimes be found sick, and even fatally ill.
May I point you in the direction of a superbly illustrated book on Mallorcan medicinal plants, Gloses i Plantes Medicinals. The drawings were lovingly executed by Wendy Spooner. The book is published by the admirable La Foradada publishers in Palma; it retails at 24 €. Unfortunately, this rather essential book is so far only available in a Catalan version.
The photo (top) was taken near Son Prohenç, Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: February 20th, 2009. The time was 13:47:15. The photo (bottom) was taken from the Internet. Thanks are due to the Herbari Virtual del Mediterrani Occidental and the UIB Universitat de les Illes Balears. Moltes Gràcies.