By: Giovanni da Lozzo
Paddling in the Venetian lagoon, we not only make an excursion in an enchanting natural environment, but we also immerse ourselves in the history and customs of the ancient Venetians.
Navigating with a kayak we can go to places not visible with other boats and not reachable by other means.
And we, the Venice Kayak guides, will show you artifacts, plants, animals, and tell you stories and tales of the past and present. But you, above all, will be able to immerse yourself in the lagoon of Venice where myths, nature and history coexist and reveal to us the true side of the city of Venice.
When we wander through the canals of the salt marshes, we often let fish and red herons or oyster catchers escape, while above us seagulls ride the constant breeze over our heads.
While we remain enraptured by all of this, perhaps we may miss some aspects, such as the plants and underwater life, that patiently endure the sun, weather, and extremely salty water.
Today, I would like to tell you about one of these plants: the Santonego, or Artemisia caerulescens but also known as Coastal Wormwood.
I discovered this plant when I had lunch with my family at Da Forner restaurant in Burano.
In fact, after the excellent lunch based on lagoon delicacies, which I will tell you about later, the restaurateur offered us a glass of grappa with santonego.
My taste buds sparked, an enveloping slightly bitter taste invaded my spirit. This was my first encounter with this humble plant that grows along the shores of the Venetian Lagoon.
From here I set off to learn more about this plant. At one time the decoction was used to treat intestinal parasitosis in children, but also against stomach and liver disorders.
I was reminded of a story told to me by some fishermen from Chioggia years ago when they told me that they did not put santonego under the boats, as Chioggia used this word for the underwater paint, the varnish that prevents algae or other things from sticking to the bottom of the boats, perhaps because they used this plant to produce this varnish.
In fact, in the lagoon many plants grow and thrive that were used both to cure, to feed animals, but also for industry.
You will understand that this is not the absinthe so dear to the cursed poets, so don’t worry we don’t sell alcohol, but with us you can live experiences that you will always take with you, wherever you go.
“A way to remind you of a flavor unknown to most, we provide you with not one, but two recipes with santonego plus a bonus.”
Some branches of Santonego
3 liters of good quality grappa
Two generous tablespoons of honey
Patience, so much patience
Place the washed and dried santonego branches in a large container with a narrow neck, then pour in the honey and grappa. Shake until you notice that the honey has dissolved. Store away from sunlight for at least 3 weeks. After this time pour into a bottle and wait at least 3 months before tasting.
Some sprigs of santonego
400 ml. of alcohol for liqueurs
200 gr. of sugar
300 ml of water
Wash the mint leaves well, dry them thoroughly and put them in the infusion in alcohol in a well closed jar and leave them for 7 days in a dark place.
Once this time has passed, prepare a syrup with water and sugar by melting it over a very low heat and then letting it cool completely at room temperature. In the meantime, filter the alcohol and put the mint leaves in a clean white cloth. Squeeze the “bundle” very hard to extract all the juice and aroma of the mint, add it to the alcohol and then mix it well with the sugar syrup. Bottle the liqueur which should be left to rest for at least 3 months. It is important that the syrup is cooled at room temperature before adding it to alcohol to obtain a clear liquor. If it is still lukewarm the liquor will get cloudy.
Put some santonego ramenetti between the bones of your ribs and perhaps accompany it with a liqueur or grappa made from the same lagoon plant.
“As you may have read, in the lagoon there is much more than you may think and we at Venice Kayak, are the ones to help you discover the truest and most hidden lagoon.”
Image Credits: VeniceKayak