The Meadow is On My Plate

May 1, 2015

May Day. National holiday.

Andiamo alla campagna!  One and all to the countryside!

Heading for the hills on May Day is one of those unwritten Sicilian rules, like the one that requires you, when hanging out your wash, to clip each sock at the toe and hang it neatly next to its mate.

So off we go.

And there we find: bygone lanes, farmhouses with braying dogs, fields of ripe artichokes.

Bygone lane, Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

Farmhouse in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

Artichoke in Field, copyright Jann HuizengaBut why we’ve really come is to forage for wild food. We rummage in meadows, like old-time peasants. Look! There’s asparagus, lassini and malva!

This goes on for hours.

Field of flowers, copyright Jann Huizenga

Lassini--you have to pick these stems before they flower. It's already too late to eat this particular plant but we find lassini plants in the shade that have not yet flowered.

Lassini–you have to pick these stems before they flower. It’s already too late to eat this particular plant but we find lassini plants in the shade that have not yet flowered.

Malva--you eat the leaves, not the flowers. It's such an ancient food that Horace mentions it: Me pascunt olivae, me cichorea levesque malvae (As for me, olives, chickory and malva provide sustenance.)

Malva–you eat the leaves, not the flowers. It’s such an ancient food that Horace mentions it: Me pascunt olivae, me cichorea levesque malvae (As for me, olives, chickory and malva provide sustenance.)

When hunger hits, we pull down green almonds and pop the whole fuzzy thing in our mouths. I make a sour face and am admonished for my timidity.

green olive, copyright Jann HuizengaTwenty minutes after arriving home, the meadow is on my plate.

Pasta Dish, Copyright Jann HuizengaIt’s getting cold, so I will bid you buon appetito and arrivederci.



22 comments to The Meadow is On My Plate

  • Brava, Bravissima Jan.
    Sei molto simpatica.
    I really do love your posts.

  • Robert

    Hi Jann,
    Been a while! You may remember, my grandparents were Ragusani and my grandad was a shepherd in the countryside around Ragusa when he was a boy. I can imagine him living within this Natural Beauty! Thank you for these lovely visions…! 🙂

    • Jann

      Hi Robert!!! So nice to hear from you. I bet your granddad was foraging for food while he watched his flock.

  • **Look! There’s asparagus, lassini and malva!**

    Jann, you continually bring me JOY)) xxx

  • jan walcott

    Loved those stone walls around around the Ragusa and Scicli area when you got “off the beaten path.. As we were in Sicily
    last Fall, thought of how much work it was clearing those stones from the fields, much as it was in Ireland and in New
    England. We did not get to Ragusa Ibla last September, (you were out of town and had hoped to meet you for a coffee
    (cappucino, and maybe even after 11:00 AM, god forbid)). But next time!!!

    • Jann

      Yes drystone walls so much like those in Ireland. It really struck me when we toured the Irish countryside last year. In Sicily these walls are found mostly in the Southeast.

  • Toni

    Ohhh – your pictures are making me hungry! I really need to get back to Sicily some day…. Thanks again for sharing your wonderful pictures!

  • Sam

    I had to restrain myself from lunging at the screen with a fork when I saw that plate of pasta!

    • Jann

      Sam, I don’t think your computer screen would have appreciated that fork! Pazienza, as they say here.

  • John Schinina

    Ciao, Jann,I need to know what’s complementing that beautiful pasta dish. I see wild Asparagus, Artichokes, Celery possibly Capers, garlic and Olive Oil, some Cacio Cavallo Cheese and a garnish of Roasted Red Pepper, just tell me if I’m close, its looks so delicious I can’t stand it. Please excuse my spelling, I was never good at that.

    • Jann

      🙂 You’re pretty close, John. We used the ingredients we found in the fields: wild asparagus, lassini (which looks on the plate, very much like the ultra-thin wild asparagus), and the malva leaves. These greens, along with slivers of artichoke (donated by a farmer we met) were poached for a few minutes in water. Then it all went into the frying pan for just a minute with olive oil & garlic & a few pieces of sun-dried tomato. Throw the pasta into the frying pan to mix it all together and plate it. Easy—–never mind that finding those wild herbs took a few hours! Adding cheese would have been great! Will do next time.

  • Now I want to know where that tree-lined walkway in the first picture leads to!! So beautiful. I love tree-lined anything! What a great idea – head to the hills. I think everyone should do that, spend a day in the country enjoying nature. Surprisingly to me, I know (and use) the rule about the socks (smile).

    • Jann

      Nan–way at the end of that lane is a noble villa in disrepair, from the days when there were rich landowners and poor peasants working the land.

  • Nancy

    All looks wonderful

  • Wayne Powell

    Your photos are beautiful as always. Thanks for sharing Jann.


  • Happy May Day, Jann! We don’t really celebrate it in the States, but my Sicilian mom always remembers — and gifts me with something fun like flowers or candy. She used to do May baskets, too. Such a lovely jaunt you’ve shown us here today — thank you, and hope your day continues to be wonderful!

    • Jann

      Ciao Debbie–How nice to get gifts on May Day. I haven’t heard of them doing that here…maybe it’s a Sicilian tradition from years ago that your mom’s people carried over?? I’ll have to ask around.

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