Mannarinu, nivia, carduni: here are all the Sicilian names for fruits and vegetables you must know
We have always spoken of Sicily as a land at the center of the world, a crossroads of cultures and peoples. For millennia, Sicily has been home to diverse peoples, who have graced it with art, monuments, roads, aristocratic villas, and theaters, but also with customs, lifestyles, and foods from all over the world.
This proliferation of different cultures and this inherent multiculturalism have inevitably left an indelible mark on the Sicilian language as well, enriching it with a vocabulary of terms and idioms that simply do not exist elsewhere.
The Sicilian language is a language that still tells the excellence and history of a unique land in the world through the words used in everyday life and that from generation to generation remain a living testimony of this profound cultural mix.
Zinzula, mannarinu, fastuca, nivia, and carduna are just some of the words by which fruits and vegetables are still called in homes, markets, and the streets of cities and towns, the protagonists of unique recipes and dishes. Would you like to take a trip through the Sicilian language and discover, with us, all the Sicilian names for fruits, vegetables and vegetables?
How do you say …? Here are the ancient names of Sicilian fruits
Sicily is a land rich in fruits, many of which have become excellences in the world and living testimony to Sicilian fruits still cultivated by small producers but little known. Just think of the Bronte pistachio, the ancient apples of Etna, the Sciacca strawberry, the late mandarin of Ciaculli or the Paceco melon: all Slow Food Presidia.
Knowing and rediscovering these products, through a dish or from a name, is important because each fruit reveals a small page of our island’s history. Do you know, for example, what pistachio is called in Sicilian dialect? The name for pistachio, the green gold of Sicily, is fastuca, from the Arabic fustuaq. Mulùni, mannarinu, pumu, and pièrsica or pessica are the Sicilian terms used for melon, mandarin, apple, and peach.
There are little-known fruits such as giuggiola, in Sicilian ‘nzinzula, a fruit with a floury, sweetish pulp very similar to dates, or u cutugnu, the quince apple with which delicious jams are made in many inland Sicilian towns. And again, zorba to refer to the sorb and ciansu in reference to the very sweet and tasty mulberry.
And what, on the other hand, is the apricot called? One of the most beloved fruits of summer, in Sicily, is named fraccoca. A nice basket of cirase, racina and pruni will make you savor delicious cherries, grapes and plums or prunes.
Sicilian names of vegetables and greens
We have already devoted an article to Sicilian vegetables and their traditional names. And, in fact, when it comes to vegetables and greens, Sicily offers so many ways to dive into the past and discover extraordinary stories.
For example, there is a vegetable that is eaten exclusively in Sicily and is the main ingredient in one of the most famous and beloved dishes of Sicilian cuisine. We are talking about tenerumi!
A guest from the Veneto region, faced with a pasta dish with “tenerumi” will not know how to behave. He would not know the term or even that strange cooked vegetable, but all he would have to do is smell the aroma and taste a soup with tenerumi to understand how much he has missed out until that moment. The term “tenerume” refers to the tender shoots and leaves (also often called “taddi“) of the long zucchini plant. Cooked together with olive oil, garlic and tomato, they become the perfect condiment for a delicate yet memorable summer dish.
But there are so many vegetables and greens that the Veneto host would have to move to Sicily for a few months to have just enough time to taste and get to know them all. For example, staying on the subject of “zucchini“, there is the “cucuzza i sett’anni” (seven-year-old zucchini), or spiny zucchini. Or, the cacoccioli or cacuoccioli indicating artichoke, nivia, a term used for endive or escarole. On the other hand, if we wanted to use chicory, we would have to be careful about which type of chicory to use, because there are two types and they have two different names: sinapa indicates wild chicory while purranei indicates spiny chicory.
A salad of lettuce and cucumbers? That would be “Na ‘nzalata ri lattuca e citrola“.
What if we wanted to use peppers? Well, we would have to call them “pipi“. While to prepare an asparagus risotto, we should buy rice and “sparici“. To prepare a canazzo or canazzu, that is, a delicious cooked vegetable and vegetable dish, we should use mulinciani, pipi, cipuddi, pumaruòru and patati. That is, eggplant, peppers, onions, tomatoes and potatoes. Real goodness, right?
The names of the wild vegetables of Sicily
In ancient times it was customary for rural dwellers to gather wild herbs as a source of food supply to bring to the table. Many plants were consumed for their healing and preventive qualities, many others for their nutritional properties. So-called “alimurgy,” or eating wild plants, is a practice that is still current but is being lost.
Woods, meadows, and paths are generally the places where you can find so many species of wild vegetables, and in an age characterized by consumerism, in which fruits and vegetables are present all year round inside supermarkets, seasonality and the consumption of wild plants is an opportunity to rediscover a healthier and more genuine diet.
But what are the wild and spontaneous vegetables that can be easily found by walking along paths, woods or through the Sicilian countryside?
Angular garlic (agghiu, accia or aglia in Sicilian), for example, is a herbaceous plant that blooms in spring and can be used in the preparation of vegetable soups as well as to flavor meat and fish dishes. Rich in allicin, an active ingredient to which are attributed antihypertensive, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-dyslipidemic properties.
Borage, in Sicilian dialect burranea or vurraini, is also a herbaceous plant that flowers from January to April, whose leaves and tender stems can be used for the preparation of soups, risottos and omelettes, as well as diuretic, depurative and detoxifying herbal teas.
Wild fennel (finocchiu or finùocchiu), on the other hand, is the quintessential wild plant protagonist of one of the tastiest dishes in Sicilian cuisine: pasta with sardines (a Pasta ch’i sardi e finocchietto selvatico), prepared with the leaves and sprouts of the plant.
The seeds of wild fennel, on the other hand, are used in the preparation of sausage, in cookies and bread, for liqueurs and herbal teas, thanks to their digestive, diuretic and antispasmodic properties.
The many names of chard
You may be wondering why chard should have more than one name. Well, chard is a vegetable belonging to the same family as spinach, beets and red turnips that is very common in Sicily, where wild chard is the most common. With bright green leaf and stem with red streaks.
In Sicily, one of the most common names for chard is “zarchi“, common in parts of the Nisseno and Agrigentino areas. In Gela, also in the province of Caltanissetta, chard takes the name aggiri while in Mussomeli it is called aiti or salichi. In San Cataldo, also in Caltanissetta, chard, however, is called “biletti” while in Enna and Vallelunga Pratameno it is called “salachi.”
A little confusion? Sure, it’s normal. But that’s not the end of it, because wild chard, commonly called “giri” or “gira” depending on the area, in the province of Trapani is called zalachi. Well known, in fact, is the dish of zalachi arriminati ca’ muddica, while in Polizzi Generosa they are called britti.
Moving on to Messina, on the other hand, chard are called sechiri, gidi, segari. In the province of Catania, they are called segale or sechili, and again in the Caltagirone area geli or geri.
Sicilian names of fruits, vegetables and greens
In short, one article is not enough to talk about Sicilian names of fruits, vegetables and greens, but we really hope we have made you discover something you didn’t know yet and, most importantly, made you appreciate even more the oldest and deepest part of our beloved Sicily!
Have you ever heard these names or do you have other names to suggest? Leave us a comment!