Getting started again has not been so easy!  I’ve been back in Palermo for several weeks, wandering through the old city, lured from one thing to the next, unable to stop and consolidate.  One day, with a great sense of excitement,  I discover a little arabo-norman pavilion in an overgrown garden, the next  a faded, seemingly abandoned 18th century villa, and then a tiny public garden with short quotations from classical texts incised into little metal plaques placed here and there along the footpath.   Each day I come home keen to learn more about what I have found; one thing pulls me on to the next.   I need to stop and reflect, but it’s not possible.  I feel like a guest at a sumptuous feast who knows he should stop and savour what he is eating, but finds that each mouthful makes the next inevitable.     

Long zucchini

Then, gradually, my daily visits to the local food market , like a recurring theme, force me to slow down and focus.  I stop and admire the abundant Spring produce: huge piles of broad beans,  glossy dark purple aubergines,  rich red tomatoes, bunches of asparagus, and baskets of loquats, and on almost every stall a pile of long, thin pale green zucchini – often more than a metre long – and, beside them, a large box  of  zucchini leaves with curling tendrils and closed buds.  These long zucchini, sometimes called snake zucchini, are a speciality of Sicily and apparently very difficult to find anywhere else –  although I am told you see them in Naples, where they are called cucuzzella longa.  Each year I have seen these zucchini in the markets, but not known what to do with them.  I decided it was time to find out.       

It seems that the leaves of the long zucchini, known here as tenerumi, are more highly prized than the zucchini itself.  They form the basis of one of Palermo’s best loved dishes: a summer soup known as la minestra con i tenerumi or pasta con i tenerumi – pasta and zucchini leaf soup.   

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