You may remember if you are a regular reader that last week I spent an hour or so digging up bulbs in a field not far from my house. Now lest you have suffered sleepless nights and worrying days wondering what they were and why I was digging them up I want to tell you all about them.
But first we should have some music. I thought this morning I must get off this music theme of tunes named after the Italian days but lets just do one more day lunedi or Monday shall we ?
Lucio Dalla ( 1943-2012) was a singer songwriter and actor. He was yet another San Remo winner and started his career writing the music and using others to write lyrics. This changed in 1977 when he was convinced to do both and immediately became a success. When he died at the Montreux Festival in 2012 over 50,000 attended his funeral in Bologna.
But back to the bulbs. Lampascioni is the Italian word for the Tassel Hyacinth or Muscari Comosum which originally came from Libya and were found by Greek traders. They first see the light of day when Oribasius ( 403-325 BC) talks about them as an edible bulb that solves stomach troubles but the line that caught everyones eye was they were an aid to excite sexual intercourse. The marketing boys in 310BC couldn’t believe their luck not only an endorsement but sex got mentioned. The supermarkets of the day saw shelves emptied in minutes and ships were sent to bring more. Planting began in Grecia Magna (now southern Italy) to try to handle the demand. Things got even better for the marketing team when the poet Ovid penned an epic ( the then equivalent of a blockbuster movie) about the bulbs effect on love making. Soon the hills of Grecia Magna were alive not with the sound of music but with shovels turning earth to plant more rows of bulbs.
The rise of Rome and the demise of Greeks just meant the bulbs were now near home. Rome took to them just as the Greeks had. They became a must have item at every wedding lunch and both bride and groom were encouraged to munch their way through plenty of them before retiring to the bedroom couch and the wedding guests surely didn’t hold back either.
Gaius Plinius Secundus ( 23-79 AD) better know to you and me as Pliny the Elder put them in his great Natural History book but again non natural history fans who wouldn’t cross the road to look at a flower were hooked by his note that they stimulate the desire to love making in the highest degree.
However by the Middle Ages the bulbs had lost their sexual reputation and had become just a stomach pain cure.
And so to the present day and my dig.
These are what they looked like fresh out of the ground. But now the work begins and you quickly realise why they are so expensive to buy in the shops today. First you wash them several times to get the mud off. Once done you need to peel them and clean them again. The bulbs ooze a sticky gunk that glues your fingers as you peel them . Once peeled you boil them for 5 minutes until they are tender but not squiggy . Cool them and put them in water for 3 days changing the water everyday.
You change the water to slowly take the bitter taste out of them. After three days you put them in pots and cover them completely in vinegar and then eat as part of a anti pasta or with salad . You can also cook them and a particular Puglia favourite is cooked in the oven with eggs, parsley and with shredded wild onions placed on the top . After all that work you rather hope that they have a greater effect than just calming a stomach as you watch your wife or girl friend or important other eat them But we all live in hope don’t we !
Lucio Dalla hit the real big time when he wrote the song Caruso in 1986 and Pavarotti recorded it. 9 million copies later Bocelli had a go and 20 million copies later Josh Groban sung it and sold yet another 5 million.
Caruso is a whole new post so I will just leave you now while you enjoy the great man and his singing.