With the assistance of the Gastronomic Association of Georgia and the National Cultural Heritage Protection Agency of Georgia, “The Tradition of Preparing Field Pkhali in Upper Imereti” has been granted the status of an Intangible Monument of Cultural Heritage.
This dish sometimes contains more than nine different healing herbs, but the nettles and amaranths are essential, along with mallow, goosefoot, bugloss, shepherd’s purse, primrose, violet leaves, and woundwort. Many housewives often mix in the leaves and stems of garlic, vine buds, beetroot leaves, fresh Welsh onions, and purslane as well.
That many plants gathered together will open up the traditions of Georgian cuisine for you, which is essentially based on plant cultivation and holds many secrets. These plants are still used therapeutically in phytotherapy in many other countries, but our ancestors turned them in a food product.
The beneficial properties of nettles are already well-known, and the biologists of the world have called amaranths the “discovery of the century” and “the cultivar of the present and the future”. Due to the nutritional components it contains, the UN Food Commission has evaluated it as a 21st-century product and added it to the list of the five most important plants for humanity. Amaranths were an important food and therapeutic product for ancient Incan and Maya tribes. Its name means “unwilting”, “everflowering” in Greek, and the ancient Greeks considered it to be a symbol of immortality.
Each component of field pkhali has their own interesting characteristics for you to find, but, as a whole, it is a very beneficial and healthy mixture of herbs, which is a true source of vitamins and nutrition for the body.
There is no specific way to make field pkhali.
The more herbs the better;
2 cups minced walnuts for 2 kilos of a boiled mixture;
3-4 cloves of garlic;
1 large bunch each of coriander, fennel, and Welsh onion;
Pepper and salt to taste.
There are many different recipes for field pkhali, the most popular of which is the Imeretian one. Pick the freshly gathered herbs, clean them, and rinse them under running water, then put them into boiling salt water to scald them. They are ready when the nettles have boiled. Do not leave them in the colander for too long, because field pkhali does not need to be wrung out very strongly. Pour out the boiled water but do not get rid of it. Mash up the remaining herbs with a special machine, a wooden spoon, or the edge of a thin plate. You can regulate the thickness with the boiled water.
To season it you will need the minced hazelnuts or walnuts and finely chopped herbs – fresh coriander, fennel, a lot of Welsh onion – and pepper, garlic, and salt. Finally, add vinegar and salt to taste.
Making field pkhali is a whole ritual, the likes of which you will be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. It is like the amazing smilax pkhali, which must be accompanied by mchadi baked on fallen Imeretian leaves. People who love pkhali know that it is doubly delicious when eaten along with red wine.
In modern variants, chopped tarragon is added to the pkhali, which gives it a new, pleasant taste and smell. In Mtiuleti they add crumbled cheese to the field pkhali, turning it into a filling which they put in dough and bake. In Guria the amaranth is most often seasoned with minced hazelnuts, coriander, and vinegar. In Kartli they add onions fried in oil and fresh, green, chopped garlic, while in Samegrelo they season it with fresh tkemali and, like everything else, they make it spicy with red pepper. But however you make it, field pkhali is always a healthy food, made in spring, right when the human body is most starting to miss fresh products and natural vitamins.
Field pkhali is a dish that makes Georgian cuisine stand out as one of the most ecological, healthy, and authentic.