An Heirloom Sicilian Kitchen Garden

| 9/25/2015 9:19:00 AM

Tags: heirloom gardening, garden planning, kitchen garden, Italy, international cuisine, Melodie Metje, Ohio,

I became interested in what would be grown in an heirloom Sicilian garden after my mom, cousin and sister’s trip to Sicily this summer. My grandpa immigrated as a child from Termini, Sicily. He loved cooking with his mom in the kitchen and kept the Sicilian cooking traditions alive in the family. Although we are no longer blessed with him in person, we have many memories and recipes that keep his memory alive.

Sicily is a unique blend of many cultures having been conquered by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Vandals, Ostrogoths, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, French, Spanish, and finally unified with Italy in 1860 and was given the status of an autonomous region of Italy in 1946.

Greek influences include olives, broad beans, and pistachios. From the Arabs came apricots, citrus, sweet melons, pine nuts, aromatic herbs like saffron, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, raisins, and sugar. They also introduced tuna fishing. The Spanish introduced New World natives like chocolate, corn, tomatoes, and peppers.  Being an island, fresh fish is a intricate part of the food, particularly anchovies and sardines.

Even with the diverse background of many cultures having made Sicily home through the ages, Sicilian cuisine preparation is simple with just a few ingredients, letting the flavors of each shine through. Fresh vegetables are used prominently.

An organic Italian kitchen garden is called l’orto biologico. For the heirloom varieties, I did a lot of searching on the internet and Sicilian cookbooks. It was hard to find! A great resource was Slow Food’s Ark of Taste and Presidio. Slow Food actually originated in Italy to preserve food traditions that were being lost in our modern times.

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