Some call them wild hyacinth bulbs, some call them wild onions, in Puglia we call them Lambascioni, the dialect form of the Italian word Muscari. Puglia, the southern region of the Italian boot is full of ancient food the rest of Italy doesn’t produce.
Muscari is a bulb that grows to ft. in. tall. The edible part is the bulb, the flowers (hermaphrodite) both masculine and feminine are self-fertile, they fall in the ground a self-reproduce. Insects also pollinate them and transport the seeds elsewhere. Some people might get them through pollination, but not knowing they are edible, they let them go unobserved.
People in the food business discovered Muscari or Lambascioni and now enumerate them among all the food delicacy, but I can assure you, it was the poor of the poorest food our agricultural people in Puglia ate for centuries.
If we think about it, poor people in the past were healthier than the rich, the nobles, the landowners and kings and queens. Poor people ate the produce of the land, raw or cooked in a simple way and enhanced the flavor only with the simple spices they grew in the land.
Muscari bulbs have a pinkish coloration, no smell and a very bitter taste at the raw state. I would not suggest eating them raw. It ‘a perennial plant, which blooms in delicate purple flowers until late May, have no scent, but the bright purple attract plenty of insects for its pollination. I plant them between other flowers, as they look so good in the garden. In my last photo below, I show my Lambascioni growing between a bed of arugula. The Lambascioni plant adapts to any climate and soil but prefers full sun and reproduces abundantly in well-drained clay soils. Fall is the best time to plant them, before the cold arrives.
Muscari have many properties, some of which are refreshing, diuretic and stimulant of the digestive organs; stimulate bile secretion, cleanse the intestines; useful for lowering blood pressure and cholesterol; it is an anti-inflammatory and is especially useful in cases of inflammation of the bladder and bowel. I can say that Lambascioni prevent and protect the intestines by freeing them from harmful substances and making more difficult the passage of bacteria in the blood.
To get the bitterness out, I leave the bulb in milk for about 15-20 minutes after I peel the outer shells and washed the dirt out, then I cook them in a few different ways, for example:
- casserole of lambascioni with zucchini, potatoes and Parmigiano cheese;
- lambascioni fritters in a tempura batter;
- lambascioni roasted on the grill and eat them with fresh tomatoes and a hardy cheese;
- lambascioni frittata with eggs and prosciutto;
- lambascioni baked with sausages.
However, my favorite way is much simpler and it seems most people in family likes them the same way:
“take them out of the milk, as I said to get rid of the bitterness (discard the milk, please, it turned bitter by now), place them in a pot with salted boiling water and cook them until fork tender. Drain the water, transfer to a salad dish and mash them with the back of the fork to make a soft creamy mixture. Add extra-virgin olive oil, a few drops of lemon juice, chopped Italian parsley, salt & black pepper or chili pepper, if you like a kick. Spread the delicacy on a fresh baguette warm or at room temperature. The slight bitter taste will not linger in the mouth, actually it is very pleasant and after about one minute or two, it is not noticeable anymore, as it changes into a sweet and pleasant taste”. I assure you a good experience!
I have ordered the seed from Puglia and now living in California I will be the only one having them on my table spring and fall. Ciao.
Copyright © 2012 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved
Valentina Cirasola has been in business as a designer since 1990. She has helped people realizing their dreams with homes, offices, interiors and exteriors. She designs landscape as a complement to the residential design concept as a unity. She loves creating gardens spaces that will serve the kitchen as well, other than beautification of exteriors. Check out her two published books on regional Italian cuisine, available in this site on the Books’ page and on Amazon: http://tiny.cc/pkoo0