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The wildflowers of the Sicilian Spring

‘Where are you going on holiday?’ asked an Italian friend. ‘Sicily at the end of April and the beginning of May’.  ‘Ah, just the right time for the wild flowers’.

He was right.  Before the arrival of the suffocating, ‘tyrannous‘ summer heat, Spring in Sicily is when ‘the climate’s delicate; the air most sweet‘. The local ancient Greeks believed that Persephone, queen of the underworld, emerged in Spring from her Sicilian captivity at the hands of Hades, bringing new life and the renewal of nature.

At this time of year, Sicily is carpeted from end to end with beautiful swathes of wild flowers that line the roads and country lanes, cling to the walls of Greek ruins or deserted farm houses, spread across untended fields or sit underneath groves of olive, almond and orange trees.  When driving you glimpse the blue of borage and echium, the pink of valerian, the blood red of roadside poppies, the yellow of broom, corn marigold, mimosa and wild fennel, the lilac of wisteria, the creamy white of snapdragons and other flashes of orange, purple, scarlet and magenta. Everywhere the air is heady with the ‘erotic waft‘ of citrus blossom, referred to as zagara, an word passed from Arabic into Sicilian and then Italian.

The Sicilians say ‘Aprili fa li ciuri e le biddizzi, l’onuri l’havi lu misi di maju‘ — April makes the flowers and the beauty, but May gets all the credit — making this a perfect time to visit this enchanting island as shown below.

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Risotto Primavera – the fresh taste of Spring

What is the taste of Spring for you?  Here, the local markets are now heaving with all sorts of young vegetables including podded peas (piselli), broad peans (fave), runner beans (fagioli rampicanti), asparagus (asparagi) and courgettes (zucchini) with their delicate flowers still attached.  Despite the terrible weather in Naples, spring is in the air.

In honour of Primavera, and to use as many of these lovely fresh vegetables in an Italian dish as possible, here is one of our favourite recipes, taken from the first River Cafe cookbook: Risotto Primavera:

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