Are you wondering what in the world these summer greens called “tenerumi” are? Tenerumi are the leaves and tender shoots of the long squash plant called “cucuzza” found all over Palermo markets. These greens are eaten all over Sicily and also in Calabria where they are known as “taddi di cucuzza”. Here is a picture I took in Palermo’s market last summer, showing the tenerumi next to the long squash.
I didn’t grow up eating tenerumi. I learned about tenerumi from my in-laws who are from Palermo. I only knew of “pasta con tenerumi”, a typical summer pasta dish prepared in Palermo when these greens are in season. Last summer while traveling throughout Sicily I had the tenerumi served as a side dish, summer greens sautéed with olive oil and garlic and I fell in love with them. I wondered when I would enjoy them again as I didn’t grow this type of squash in my garden. When I returned from Sicily last summer as I was walking through the stalls of the Asian farmer’s market in Oakland I stumbled upon a table loaded with tenerumi. I couldn’t believe my eyes, but there they were and people were buying them like crazy. I asked the lady if these were the leaves of the long squash and she confirmed by picking up a long squash that looked just like the “cucuzze” sold in Palermo’s markets. I learned in Asian cuisine, that these squash are eaten and the leaves used just as they are in Sicily.
I bought three bunches (they sell them for only $1 each) and cooked them all. I made the traditional “pasta con tenerumi” and the rest I sautéed just as I do with my winter greens in olive oil, garlic and salt. They are delicate, creamy and almost buttery like. I enjoyed them all of last summer and waited patiently until they showed up again this summer. They started showing up at the Asian farmer’s market in Oakland in the last couple of weeks and I thought of writing this post so you can try these greens while they are available.
I'll show you how to clean the shoots so you end up with creamy and tender greens. To sauté them is so easy that you don’t even need a recipe but it does make a difference on how you prep the greens before you cook them. They do take a little bit of time to clean but it is worth the time so you don’t end up with stringy greens. You need to peel the shoots to get rid of the prickly thorns on the stems. You start by trimming the tough ends and pulling down and peeling away the tough skin using a paring knife. Do this all around the stems until there are no more or only a few of the prickly thorns left on the stems. Remove all the tendrils.
Here is what you remove and discard on the bottom right of the picture.
Once all cleaned, cut them in 3 – 4 inch pieces and rinse them well.
Bring a pot of water to boil, add salt and the greens. Push the greens in the hot boiling water until completely submerged and bring back to a boil. Cook the greens for few minutes until tender.
Drain and cool in a colander. Heat some extra virgin olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over moderate heat. Add the garlic and sauté until the garlic is golden. Add the greens and toss to coat with oil. Cook until the greens are hot throughout and infused with the seasonings, about 5 minutes. Taste for salt, add more if needed.
Let me know if you find these greens at your farmer's market. Enjoy them while they last!