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Journey among the wild Sicilian vegetables: flavors and traditions.


Journey among the wild Sicilian vegetables: flavors and traditions.

Welcome to this article dedicated to the wild vegetables that grow spontaneously in this splendid sun-kissed land. Sicily is a region rich in biodiversity, and the wild vegetables are a tangible example of this.

Among the meadows, fields, and roadside edges, numerous varieties of plants grow that have been used in traditional Sicilian cuisine for centuries. These vegetables, sometimes lesser-known, are true culinary gems, capable of offering intense and authentic flavors, as well as providing significant nutritional properties. In this article, we will discover together the most common wild vegetables in Sicily, their names in Sicilian, and how to use them to create delicious pasta recipes that will enhance their goodness and freshness. Get ready for a culinary journey to discover the delicacies of Sicilian cuisine and its wild vegetables.


The period in which wild vegetables sprout in Sicily depends on the different varieties and the weather conditions of the year. However, in general, many of the wild herbs begin to grow in spring, between March and April, when temperatures begin to rise and the spring rains favor their growth.

For example, wild chicory is one of the most common wild vegetables in Sicily, and it sprouts from March and April, and can be harvested until June. Even wild fennel, borage, and agretti are typical of the coastal areas of Sicily, and they begin to grow in spring.

Some other herbs, such as matalufo, caruleddi, and scacciuna, can also grow during the winter or autumn, when temperatures are still mild and the rains are not too intense.


vegetables in Sicily

Here's a nice list of what can be found in Sicily:

Wild Fennel (Finuccheddu sarvaggiu): Wild fennel is an aromatic plant that grows spontaneously in the countryside and along the edges of roads. Its thin, thread-like leaves have a taste similar to that of fennel and are often used to flavor dishes, while its yellow flowers are edible and can be used as decoration.

Wild Artichoke (Carduna): The wild artichoke is a plant that grows spontaneously along the roads and in the fields in Sicily. It has thorny leaves and a very conspicuous purple flower. Its buds, if picked before flowering, are edible and often used in Sicilian cuisine.

Wild Broccoli (Brocculiceddi sarvaggi): Wild broccoli is a variety of wild cabbage with dark green leaves and an intense flavor. They are often used in traditional Sicilian cuisine as a side dish or in soups.

Wild Chicory (Cicirata): Wild chicory is a plant with serrated and bitter leaves that grows spontaneously in the countryside. It is often used in salads or cooked as a side dish, but can also be used as an ingredient for fillings or sauces.

Wild Capers (Cappari): Wild capers are a plant that grows spontaneously on walls or in rocky areas of Sicily. Its buds are edible and often used in Sicilian cuisine to flavor fish or meat dishes.

Wild Asparagus (Sparaciu): Wild asparagus is a plant with thin, delicate stems, that grows spontaneously in meadows and woods of Sicily. They are often used as a side dish or in soups.

Wild Radicchio (Radiccedda): Wild radicchio is a wild variety of radicchio with narrow and elongated leaves and a bitter flavor. It is often used as an ingredient for salads or as a side dish in Sicilian cuisine.

Agretti: A plant with a salty and slightly bitter taste, often used in salads or as a side dish.

Matalufo: A plant that produces fruits similar to small cherries, with a sweet and sour taste. They are often used for making jams or as a seasoning for salads or meats.

Caruleddi: A variety of wild asparagus very common in Sicily, with a slightly bitter and a bit spicy taste.

Sea Fennel: A plant similar to wild fennel but grows on cliffs and near the sea. Its leaves and seeds have a very intense flavor.

Scacciuna: A plant with a bitter and spicy flavor, often used in the kitchen as a seasoning.

Purslane (Verdolaga): A plant with fleshy, succulent leaves, with a slightly sour taste. It is often used in salads or as a seasoning for meat or fish dishes.

Zambutu: A plant that produces fruits similar to small pumpkins, with a sweet and delicate taste. They are often used as a seasoning for salads or as a side dish for meat or fish dishes.

Paparina: A plant that produces fruits similar to small tomatoes, with a sweet and delicate taste. They are often used as a seasoning for salads or as an ingredient for sauces.

Plantain: A plant with green, fleshy leaves, often used in salads or as a side dish. It is also known for its healing properties.

Savory (Santoreggia): An aromatic plant similar to mint, often used in the kitchen as a seasoning for salads or meat dishes.

Wild Celery: A plant with an intense and aromatic flavor, often used as an ingredient for soups or sauces.

Wild Thyme: An aromatic plant with small leaves and an intense flavor. It is often used in the kitchen as a seasoning for meat or fish dishes.

Vruocculu russu: A variety of wild cabbage with red leaves and a slightly bitter taste. It is often used as an ingredient for salads or as a side dish in Sicilian cuisine.

Keep in mind that, as with all wild vegetables, it is important to harvest these plants sustainably and in compliance with local laws and regulations.


And here are also some recipes that include some of the Sicilian wild vegetables with a pasta base:


Penne with wild artichokes and salted ricotta:


Spaghetti with wild artichokes and salted ricotta:

Ingredients:

400 g of penne

4-5 wild artichokes

1 clove of garlic

50 g of grated salted ricotta

extra virgin olive oil to taste

salt and pepper to taste

Procedure:

Clean the wild artichokes by removing the outer leaves and thorns. Slice them thinly and place them in cold water acidulated with lemon.

In a pan, sauté the garlic clove in extra virgin olive oil, add the artichokes and cook over medium heat until they are golden.

Cook the spaghetti in salted water, drain them al dente and transfer them to the pan with the artichokes. Sauté for a couple of minutes, add the grated salted ricotta, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper. Serve hot.


Trofiette with wild fennel and sausage:

Trofiette  with wild fennel and sausage:

Ingredients:

400 g of trofiette

1 bunch of wild fennel

200 g of sausage

1 clove of garlic

chili pepper to taste

extra virgin olive oil to taste

salt to taste


Procedure:

Clean the wild fennel by removing the tougher parts and chopping it into small pieces.

In a pan, sauté the garlic clove and chili pepper in extra virgin olive oil, add the crumbled sausage and cook over medium heat until it is golden.

Add the wild fennel and cook for a few minutes until it has softened.

Cook the orecchiette in salted water, drain them al dente and transfer them to the pan with the sausage and fennel sauce. Sauté for a couple of minutes, adjust with salt if necessary. Serve hot.


Linguine with wild chicory and sun-dried tomatoes:

Linguine with wild chicory and sun-dried tomatoes:

Ingredients:

400 g of paccheri

1 bunch of wild chicory

50 g of sun-dried tomatoes in oil

1 clove of garlic

chili pepper to taste

extra virgin olive oil to taste

salt to taste

Procedure:

Clean the wild chicory by removing the tougher parts and chopping it into small pieces.

In a pan, sauté the garlic clove and chili pepper in extra virgin olive oil, add the sun-dried tomatoes chopped into small pieces and cook for a few minutes.

Add the wild chicory and cook until it has softened.

Cook the paccheri in salted water, drain them al dente and transfer them to the pan with the chicory and sun-dried tomatoes. Sauté for a couple of minutes, adjust with salt if necessary. Serve hot.

I hope you enjoy these recipes! Remember that you can adjust the ingredient quantities to your preferences and add other wild vegetables if you want to experiment. Bon appétit!


Spaghetti with Sparaci (Spaghetti with Wild Asparagus):

Spaghetti with Sparaci (Spaghetti with Wild Asparagus)

Ingredients:

400 g of spaghetti

400 g of fresh asparagus

3-4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves of garlic

Salt and pepper to taste

Chili pepper (optional)

Grated pecorino (optional)

Preparation:

Wash the asparagus, remove the tougher, woody part of the stems, and cut them into pieces about 3-4 cm in length.

In a large pan, heat the olive oil and add the crushed garlic cloves. Sauté the garlic over medium heat until it becomes golden.

Add the asparagus to the pan and cook them for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they become tender but still crunchy. Adjust with salt and pepper to taste. If you desire a touch of spiciness, add some chili pepper at this point.

In the meantime, cook the spaghetti in plenty of boiling salted water following the instructions on the package to achieve al dente cooking.

Drain the spaghetti and pour them into the pan with the asparagus. Mix well to flavor the pasta.

Serve the spaghetti with hot asparagus, sprinkling with grated pecorino if desired.


In conclusion, the wild vegetables of Sicilian cuisine are a valuable resource of flavors, aromas, and beneficial properties for health. These treasures of nature have long been used in traditional Sicilian cuisine and today are experiencing a sort of renaissance, thanks to the growing attention towards sustainability, the valorization of local resources, and the rediscovery of the culinary traditions of the territory.

In this post, we have looked together at some of the most common wild vegetables in Sicily, their names in Sicilian, and some recipes to use them in the preparation of tasty and healthy pasta dishes.


We hope that this article has been an inspiration to discover and appreciate the richness of Sicilian cuisine, and to valorize the spontaneous herbs of our territory, respecting the environment and the biodiversity of our planet.

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