A wild herb flavors the local cuisine in Kotor Bay on Montenegro’s Mediterranean coast.
Žućenica stands by the roadside, waiting for someone to take it home with them – and in Kotor Bay, Montenegro, it doesn’t have to wait very long. When the winds that blow across the karst mountain landscape grow warmer, the locals gather great bunches of žućenica, wild chicory, on the slopes above Kotor, Tivat and Budva. This unremarkable-looking herb is practically a staple in Montenegro, the tiny country north of Albania. Its elongated, indented leaves have the look and similarly bitter taste of dandelion greens, but this original, wild form of radicchio, chicory and endive is even more aromatic than its offspring. That’s why the “Queen of Vegetables” abounds right now on the markets around Tivat – a recent new addition to Lufthansa’s destinations. Žućenica season ends in late June, when pale-blue blossoms appear and the leaves become inedible. The ancient Romans also discovered a taste for žućenica when they arrived in the Balkans. On June 15, the Žućenica Festival swells Tivat’s population of 10 000 with visitors keen to sample dishes cooked to closely guarded family recipes: creamy soups, white-wine risotto, and filo pastries with sausage and cheese. The most popular dish, potatoes with wild chicory, olive oil and sometimes eggs, has even made it onto the menu of the Regent, Tivat’s luxury hotel. By the way, wild chicory also grows by the wayside in many other countries, but generally waits in vain for takers.