The Italian word senape, is mustard in English, therefore it is very appropriate that this green, leafy vegetable is called Senape.
A few weeks ago I bought one bunch from Il Fruttivendelo, Gus and Carmel’s stall in A shed at the Queen Victoria Market. Unfortunately, they have not been able to source any since.
I did some research and apparently – sinapis arvensis – grows wild and around Ragusa in Sicily where my father’s relatives live. More research tells me that these leafy, mustard greens are also common around Etna and the Madonie Mountains.
I remembered that I encountered Senape (also called Sanapu and Sinàpi) in the Market in Syracuse in 2007 and now realise that I also have a photograph of this wild green in my book, Sicilian Seafood Cooking.
The bunch I purchased at the Queen Victoria Market is obviously the cultivated variety of Senape and it tastes very much like one other mustard tasting, leafy green of the Brassica tribe, Cime di rapa (broccoli raab, also known as rapini),
Recently, I was away camping for a couple of weeks and i do enjoy forging. apart from wild lettuce I picked two varieties of wild Brassicas. One variety, I am quite familiar with and I have written about this one many times; it looks and tastes like canola plants, the wild version. I notice that several Australian references call them ‘Wild Cabbage’. Sicilians may call them amareddi or cavuliceddi, rapudda, rapuzza, sanapuddhi and many more local terms.
The photo below demonstrates how in this plant’s advanced stage this variety looks so much like broccolini.
The other variety of wild green I foraged had an intense, fiery mustard taste with a hint of bitterness (photos below).
They tasted fabulous and after some research I think that in Australia these are referred to as ‘Mustard Greens’ and they could be related to the cultivated Indian mustard plant.
Both types have tiny, yellow flowers and unopened buds, similar to the distinctive flowers in broccoli heads, the same as the Cime di rapa, or the bunch of Senape that I hope to be able to purchase again.
In the wild I foraged and collected the tips – the soft leaves and flowers of both of these wild plants.
In some places there were plenty around and I made the most of them.
I cooked one harvest with Italian pork sausages and pasta, other yields with cannellini beans and plenty of shaved pecorino and another pasta dish with anchovies and feta.
It is a common practice to cook Cime di rapa or wild greens from the Brassica family by boiling them in plenty of salted water and once cooked they are drained before sautéing in the oil, garlic and chilli. I always omit the pre-cooking phase and sauté the greens directly with the flavourings.
One disadvantage perhaps of not boiling the greens first is that I cannot use the drained water from the greens to cook the pasta, this being popular with Sicilian cooks. The pasta takes on a green hue and some of the flavour of the vegetables, but I prefer sautéed greens that still have some bite in them.
I cooked the bunch of the Senape (about 500 gr) I bought from the QVM with ossocollo (smallgoods/cured pork neck), 3 cloves of chopped garlic, about 4 tbs extra virgin olive oil, salt and chilli flakes (or use fresh chilli). Speck or pancetta is also a good substitute for ossocollo, I chose this because I had some in my fridge.
Unlike the preferred quantity of 100g of pasta for each person, I think that 300g of pasta is sufficient for 4 people, however you may disagree.
Clean the green vegetables.
Fry the garlic and chilli, add the ossocollo and leave to lightly brown in a pan.
Add the Senape and sauté it. I added some salt, a splash of white wine, put the lid on and cooked it till I was satisfied with the degree of done-ness.
Dress the drained pasta. I always like to drizzle some fresh extra virgin olive oil on the finished dish to add fragrance and accentuate the taste.
No grated Parmesan on pasta in Sicily, leave that to the northern Italians!
Parmesan can only be called Parmesan if produced in the neighbouring historical regions of Parma and Reggio (in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna). It is given the DOP label by the European Union (Denominazione d’Origine Protetta/Protected Designation of Origin). The DOP label guarantees that the product is “authentic,” or made in the original town or region with proper ingredients and process.
Use Pecorino, a strong-tasting alternative for a strong tasting dish. Pecorino is made from sheep’s milk and Pecorino cheeses that have DOP protection are the Pecorino from Sardinia, Lazio and the Tuscan Province of Grosseto and Pecorino Toscano from Tuscany, and from Sicily.
Other Posts about wild greens: