Vegetables in theSicilian Tables
Huge varieties of vegetables are grown in
Sicily and large quantities are consumed at every meal as a side dish or sometimes as a main dish, a treat not
necessarily reserved only for vegetarians.
For culinary purpose, vegetables are intended
leaves, like spinach, lettuce, or roots like radishes, carrots, or stems like celery or flowers like broccoli,
or seeds like peas, fava, chick-peas, or bulbs like garlic, or fruits like tomatoes, squash, zucchini and
olives. Also used in Sicilian cooking are: herbs, spices and some leaves used to enhance or complete some
But aside from the nutritional value, the
vegetables that are part of the Sicilian diet are and have been used as remedies to solve health problems since
ancient times. The secrets and knowledge of the use of vegetables and herbs is handed down from generation to
generation and usually in every family there is someone with this knowledge and ready to give any needed
In my family we had la zia Giovannina, a cousin
from my father’s side, who was our adviser and our family health manager. Zia Giovannina helped when my mother
was in labor; she would prepare all the necessary articles for the midwife or the doctor and in fact she was
present when all of my siblings and I were born. Zia Giovannina was called all the time to try the home-made
cures that she knew how to use. The family’s doctor would only be called if the natural healings were not one
hundred per cent effective. She had ingredients handy and available in our pantry for every possible affliction:
her treatments worked most of the time and some of the remedies she employed are still used in modern
All vegetables are utilized as a remedy to take
care of specific afflictions; common vegetables like escarole, dandelion and endive, along with chick-peas,
rice, beans, lentils, artichokes, fennel, garlic, and the omnipresent lemon, bay leaves and aloe leaves are the
most frequently used curative agents.
down to continue the introduction:
However tomatoes are not only good as a sauce
for pasta condiment or because they are rich with lycopene, an anticancer agent, but also in case anyone was
afflicted with a boil, Zia Giovannina had the right cure using a few slices of tomato applied to the affected
area along with a high protein diet, zabaglione in the morning and meat at dinner: this remedy works perfectly
and the problem is solved as soon as it starts to develop.
For all sorts of inflammation, the broth made with escarole, dandelion or endive or
the combination of them was the ideal medication along with a diet “ in bianco” which means boiled fish or meat,
little bread, pasta with olive oil without cheese, and for breakfast ricotta.
If the inflammation was in the urinary track, “mangiare in bianco” and the remedy was
to be solved by going to the herbal store, near my home in Palermo, across the street from the church of La Gancia.
The remedy would be that, for seven consecutive days, drink half a liter glass of “Acqua di Gramignia” , a tea made
with couch grass, and “macchiata” stained with a dash of milk.
Diabetes was cured with a diet containing no sugar, honey, or
flour, with small quantities of fish or meat and by eating chickpeas and dandelion boiled in plenty of water and
drinking the broth which it was believed that was curative.
“Agita”, the indigestion was remedied with half a glass of water, juice of a lemon
and a pinch of baking soda: the same ingredients found in Brioschi Effervescent Antacid.
Burning stomach: drinking tea with bay leaves.
Ulcers: milk mixed with cream 5 times a day, bread and ricotta for lunch and pasta
and olive oil at night.
Constipation: dry figs, dates, prunes, nuts. I loved this remedy, and I used to claim
this indisposition often…..
Diarrhea: lemon juice and rice.
Asthma: lemon juice and an abundance of leafy vegetables and
Anemia: goat cheese, liver, dandelion or endive, salads and dry
Another health restoration was Zia Giovannina
diet, very simple and very effective. One week dieting and one week moderate normal diet, until the ideal weight
For breakfast: one lemon, 3 ounces of all grain bread with 1 tablespoon of
For lunch: one lemon, 4 ounces of all grain bread with 2 ounces of
For supper: one lemon, 4 ounces of pasta with one tablespoon of olive oil and one cup
of boiled chickpeas with half tablespoon of olive oil.
In the evening: a snack with few dry fruits.
Maybe this diet is not suitable to anyone but it is very effective.
I could go on and remember more of the many
remedies, for pimples the aloe Vera, the fennels to help the digestion, the beans, peas or lentils to gain
strength, a tea made with malva sylvestris for dermatitis, cough or sore throat, a lemon and sulfur solution for
itch, artichokes beneficial to the liver, garlic and apple to lower the blood pressure, coffee and wine to rise
it, broccoli and cabbage to clean the
system and today they appear to be very valid
cancer fighter elements.
But let me conclude by saying that vegetables
are really good for us and with or without our knowledge they are the best medication we can treat our body
They are delicious, they are fulfilling and they are never harmful to our