Traditional Foods of Puglia Italy-Cooking Lampascioni Hyacinth Bulbs

In the market in Syracuse we came across a traditional food that is common in Puglia, though less so here in Sicily – muscari comosumlampascioni.  Similar in appearance to little onions, lampascioni are actually the bulb of a tassel hyacinth, the muscari comosum.  These are a common wildflower especially in southern Italy, though few people realize that you can eat the bulb.  Lampascioni are a classic example of Italian peasant cuisine, using free ingredients combined with a fair amount of labor and know-how to  turn an odd edible food into a delectable dish.  Or so we hoped.

Emanuele remembers lampascioni from his childhood in Puglia, though he remembers little of how his Pugliese mother prepared them, other than “cutting a cross in the bottom.”  I remember eating lampascioni that had been preserved in vinegar and oil as an antipasto in Puglia, but neither of us had ever cooked them.

lampascioni hyacinth bulbsThough it felt like we were cheating to buy the lampascioni rather than dig them up, we decided it was worth it to try them out (and since this wild hyacinth is already blooming in our fields, we have the excuse that it is too late to dig them up anyway.) 

Emanuele began to clean them and was soon grossed out by the clear sticky liquid that came oozing out of each lampascione.  Sound unappetizing? It gets worse. 

We decided the sticky substance must have a scientific name, and settled on “goo”. Peeling the lampascioni with this goo oozing out makes everything stick to your hands – dirt, peel, roots, and, soon, fingers against fingers.  This is what I imagine it’s like working in a glue factory, only dirtier.  

sticky goo on lampascioni

“Che schifo”- how revolting, said Emanuele in disgust as he got fed up trying to clean them, and decided to toss the rest of the lampascioni into the garbage –  I rescued the bulbs and planted them in a corner of the garden. If all else fails, we should have some pretty tassel hyacinths next spring.

Emanuele decided to boil the cleaned bulbs for a short while, after which he put them – still oozing goo – into a bowl and stared at them, trying to will the goo to go away.  This proved ineffective. 

Since Emanuele’s older sisters had spent much of their childhood in Puglia and learned to cook from their pugliese mother, I decided it was time for a lampascioni conference call.  After much discussion, in which both sisters corroborated the story of the cross cut, I decided to follow this procedure:

1. The lampascioni had already been cleaned and parboiled for 15 minute. Cut a cross in the root base of each bulb – work quickly as lots more goo will start seeping out of the cross cut. tassel hyacinth bulb lampascioni

2. Put the lampascioni in a large bowl of water.  Change the water 3 times a day for 2 days. The water had a slimy texture (that goo again), so I rinsed the lampascioni in a colander each time I changed the water. 

3. In a stainless steel pot, make a mixture of ½ vinegar and ½ water that will amply cover the lampscioni bulbs.  (I  used my very strong homemade red wine vinegar, so used less vinegar.  Red wine vinegar will lend a  pinkish color to the lampascioni.) Bring to a boil with the lampascioni and let simmer 20 minutes, skimming off any foam.

4. Drain the lampascioni in a colander and rinse well in running water. Make another batch of water/vinegar (or just plain water if you like them less vinegary- this is what I did.)

5. Simmer the lampascioni for another 20-30 minutes until they are tender when pierced with a fork, but still hold their shape. They are resilient little buggers, so it’s hard to overcook them. This is also a dish which is impossible to make if there is water shortage.

6. Drain the cooked lampascioni and rinse well. Pat dry of excess water.  There should now be no more goo seeping out of the lampascioni-hurray!

7. Put the goo-free lampascioni in a serving bowl. Like most edible things, they will immediately be improved by a good dousing of extra virgin olive oil.  Add salt.  Timidly taste. If they need more vinegar, add a teaspoon or two. The bulbs themselves will have a mildly bitter taste which is pleasantly countered by the vinegar and oil. If they are very bitter, you did not do a good job of getting rid of that bitter goo, and should reconsider using lampascioni in their blooming stage as decorative flowers only.

I brought my bowl of lampascioni to a family lunch in Sicily, where Emanuele’s sister Elisa was the guinea pig.  I was thrilled that she proclaimed the lampascioni to be “buonissimi! “ After eating several, she then said she would add a bit more vinegar.

So, all in all the gooey lampascioni mess was a success!  “Si”, Emanuele agreed, who reluctantly ate one, then looked relieved that they tasted okay and ate a few more -“sono buoni”.  But next time, he swore, you can find someone else to clean them.

lampascioni pronti
Cooked lampascioni, dressed with vinegar and oil, are ready to eat.

58 thoughts on “Traditional Foods of Puglia Italy-Cooking Lampascioni Hyacinth Bulbs

  1. Anita, My parents were from Puglia. We ate these bulbs regularly whenever they were available in the market. We called them cipollini. I buy them now from a store in NYC. They are bottled in jars.
    I add them to my Veal Spezzatini . Delicious.

    1. Hi Mike- It’s great that you can find lampascioni in New York! Interesting that you add them to a veal dish- I have only eaten them as an antipasto. Are the lampascioni that you put in your veal dish already pickled?

  2. The olive recipie great although my dad just smacked the olives with a hammer under a cloth no cuts as for the other too much boogers for me.

  3. Ciao Anita
    How the HECK are you? Guess how I found you again? Someone on my facebook asked what are lampascioni. I googled the word and found YOU.

    Lauren

  4. do you sell the lampascioni bulbs? I have been looking for them for a long time, my grandparents fron Italy always made these.

    1. @Deb- I don’t sell lampascioni bulbs-a previous comment from Mike mentions buying them in NYC-dont know if that is near you. I know you can also find them already pickled in jars in some specialty food shops. Question for you- were your grandparents from the region of Puglia (Apulia) in Italy?

  5. Just discovered website. Great job. I have strong urge to pack bags for visit to Italy. Question for Mike Gregory, where can I purchase some Lampascioni or Cipollini?? I live close to NYC and visit Arthur Ave in the Bronx frequently.

  6. My paternal grandparents were from this area in Italy. They had very little in the way of material things…and we ate so well here in upstate New York-simple fare. I went with them as a kid to pick mustard greens and dandelion greens. Regarding lampascioni, I remember my grandmother frying them in olive oil. I’m also trying to make some ricotta forte!

    1. Joe- So glad to hear that tis post brought back such great food memories for you- I am a big fan of wild greens, too. I will try cooking lampascioni in olive oil when they are next in season. Ricotta forte is an acquired taste, but definitely a tradition in Puglia- it will be on our list of things to taste when we are there on a new tour I am offerieng in September 2011.

  7. My father and mother cooked cippolini’s when I was a kid and I grew to love them but I have not been able to find them any longer in the USA. Does anybody know if they are still availble somewhere?

  8. Hi Anita,

    I hadn’t heard of lampascioni until a short while ago. Your very funny blog has made me want to give them a go! Keep up the blog, it looks great, and if it is all as funny as this, will be a great read. Thanks x

  9. Between the popping out of the goo, and the fact that they look just like eyeballs, I don’t think I’ll ever cook lampascioni again until I’ve had them professionally prepared by a chef. Those things are nasty!

    1. Mattie- preparing them was a fairly bizarre experience, but they do taste good. If you can’t face the preparation but are intrigued by the taste, you can purchase lampascioni already prepared in jars.

  10. My mother-in-law would just peel them like an onion, slice and fry in oil, then add hot Italian sausage and continue frying. It was simple and delicious. The goo made them tricky to clean but definitely worth it.

  11. I came across this link because I wanted to know where lampascioni came from.Just as I am typing I have some lampascioni frying with potatoes.Deliziosi! I absolutely love them.I am from Canada and my younger brother lives in a city where he can buy them. Once a year he sends some up for me and my mom.

    1. Anna – Glad you have a lampascioni connection! I am intrigued that you are frying them with potatoes, as I have never had them that way – please, tell us more! And buon appetito-

  12. I have been trying to buy Lamposcioni here in Florida and New York but no one sells them. Do you have plants or roots that I can buy, because I miss not having them for years. Hoping to hear from you soon. Thank you Mrs. Irene Sanfilippo

    1. Buongiorno Irene- I would think you might have a better chance at finding lampascioni in NY at an Italian market, most likely in early spring. Otherwise you may have to be content with buying them already prepared and pickled in jars. Or head out to the countryside with a forager and dig them up!

  13. Anita: You should have commented on how unbelievably potent gas producers these little bombshells are! Hide the women and children after having some of these explosive bombs.

  14. Buongiorno Irene, Encontramos recentemente numa padariaI TALIANA em São Paulo,que vende a Lampascione em conserva . Minha vó que também era ITALIANA,e refogava a Lampascione com 2 tomates bem picadinhos, alho e pimenta vermelha no azeite. Experimente fica um Delicia. Abraços Tchau

  15. I just bought lampascioni (cippolini) in oil only in an Italian deli. My Mom used to buy them fresh, peal them and boil them in water over & over many times to take some of the bitterness out. Then she would mash them and add vinegar & olive oil & salt & we would fight over it. Thats what I am going to do with mine. I wish I knew where to buy them fresh!!

    1. Sounds delicious, Sonia! You’ll have to go out into the countryside and find those wild hyancinth blooms, then come back later and dig up the bulbs-

  16. My mother always made them and still once in a while she flavors these little onions/bulbs special taste. If they are too bitter, she would put them in a frittata (eggs) and cheese. Thank you for letting me know the history of the lampascioni i.e. (small lantern). Keep on discovering our gourmet roots.

  17. I have been growing lampascioni from seed for a few years. My earliest ones (from 10 seeds I brought back from Puglia) have been blooming for a few years. From looking at this ongoing discussion, I have an idea how to cook them, but I don’t know when to harvest the bulbs. They are starting to bloom now so I assume they should be harvested when they go dormant. But I keep reading about spring harvesting, which doesn’t make sense. Also, isn’t cippolini a small flat onion and nothing to do with lampascioni?

    1. Hi Lynn, Congratulations an managing to grow wild hyacinth from seed! I agree that spring harvesting does not make sense, as the bulbs should be dormant. They are towrds the end of their blooming period here in Sicily (similar climate to Puglia), so I owuld harvest them in the summer or early fall, and they could be stored in a cold dry place if you don’t want to cook them right away. And yes, while lamapascioni are often referred to as little onions, they aren’t – this is an incorrect term that comes from their similarity in appearance when cooked, but as you know onions are not lampascioni! Keep in touch and let me know how yours turn out.

  18. I live in the centre of the production area, they are ok but they are a food that’s quite unfashionable now in puglia. I’m from Lecce

  19. You can buy lampascioni bulbs in the US from John Scheepers flowers under the name muscari comosum. They import them from Holland.
    You can also buy lampascioni seeds from a seller on ebay, richters (in Canada), Weston Seeds, and B&T world seeds.

    I have not been successful with the seeds, it appears they take years, not months to come up.

  20. Cippolini and Lampuscioni are 2 different “animals”. Lampuscioni is not an onion and the taste is different. To prepare the lampuscioni, you must try to clean the bulbs as best you can, cut the roots off at the base, the cut a cross into the bottom of the bulb. Coat a baking sheet with sufficient olive oil, and place the bulbs root side down. Bake in a 325F oven until they are soft. While they are baking, mix some salt and pepper into olive oil, creating a dip. Squeeze out the Lampuscioni and dip into the olive oil mixture and enjoy. I don’t think you can find the bulbs any longer, at least in a larqe quantity. Last time I had some, they were imported from Tunisia and that was decades ago. Maybe NYC might have them. You can buy them in jars in Italy, but not as good as the fresh ones.

  21. I married a Barese 40years ago.I learned to make these years ago with Lamb. They are a delightful counterpoint to the sweetness of Lamb,wish I could find them fresh again.

  22. I live in Canada. I buy Lampascioni regularly at this time of the year at grocery store. They are imported from Italy and sold in bags. I have planted some in my garden (-30 or colder in the winter). They come up in the Spring and I let some go to seeds, so I pick them fresh. Very tasty and probably rich in vitamins and minerals.

  23. I have been trying to locate a source to buy lampascioni and have been totally unsuccessful for years. I would greatly appreciate any help you might provide in finding a seller .

    Thank you for your consideration.

    Vince

  24. Fabio, mille grazie. Era la ricetta che volevo. Adesso devo trovare i Lambascioni (o pure, unaltro nome e Lamboni) in California.
    Grazie

  25. Dear Anita, I am Sicilian born, live in Australia since the age of ten; went bank to my beloved Sicily in Dec., 2011, stayed for a year; in this time I ate lampascioni quite often in season and out of season, as I love to eat, they are one of my favourite seeds, and I do know that they are the bulb of a tassel Hyacint , I have known it since a tiny child, when I would go with my siblings & cousins to fetch them for dinner, as my mother, aunts & grandma, would lovingly clean them & then roast them and lavishly drizzle them with XV olive oil of our own production; we eat them till this day, with great gusto & so do our Sicilian compatriots, I actually had them for dinner tonight: I CIPUDDUZZI (lampascioni ) are actually one of our staples. with love M.

  26. Hello. I am looking for a place to purchase fresh uncooked lampiosini in my area or by mail. They were cooked a special way by my family who were from the Pulgia Region. They used to call them by a dialect and was pronounced
    LAMBASHOONS
    Any information will be greatly appreciated
    Thank You …E.Pellegrini

  27. My husband likes all “Things” pickled and my sister Sheila frequently gives him a basket of various products for Christmas and birthday. This year a jar of lampascioni was in the mix. We tried to work out what it was from the picture on the label, possibly some type of onion. However, from the taste it seemed unlikely, so I Googled it to find out what the tasty little morsel was. Hyacinth would have been last on my list of possibilities. Sheil buys all these products from Gaganis a warehouse in Adelaide, Sth Australia.

  28. Anita, My grandparents were from Scala Coeli, and I learned to like these when I was a little girl. Unfortunately haven’t been able to find them in about 10 years. If I do locate some, do you have a recipe how to can them in jars? Thank you

  29. As the time of year when lampascione are harvested nears ,I would like to know where in the USA you can purchsae them ? We cook them in their natural state. an old reciepe from Casalvechio Di Pulgia. any effort to help me is greatly appreciated.Grazie E.Pellegrini

  30. It has taken me so long to find the name of these onions! My family also called them cippolini. My grandma, she was from Monteleone di Puglia, made them with veal, pieces of hard sausage and tomato and baked them in the oven. It was delicious.

  31. My parents are from Calabria and Lampascione were a staple our Christmas Eve dinner. In our dialect from a small paese near the city of Crotone we called them “Cippudruzzi” or small onions. but we know that they are not an Onion at all. You people are all over thinking the preparation of them. You made a big deal about the “goo” and cleaning them but that is no problem. Clean them as best you can by removing the outer skin. Wash your hands periodically during the cleaning to get rid of the “goo.” After cleaning make a couple of cross cuts as mentioned above and boil gently for a few minutes in some water to tenderize. Then drain and saute in a genererous amount of Olive Oil, salt to taste and add lots of ground chili pepper. The are spicy hot and they are the food of the Gods! Eat with your favorite Calabrese meat dish or “Tiella di Bacala on Christmas Eve! They are the greatest food in world! An earthy flavour that is to die for. If I had to pick something for my last meal on earth it would be Cippudruzzi with my moms homemade Calabrese bread and some Raspy, robust Red Wine!! I am awaiting for my order of Lampascione to fly in from Toronto this week. They may cost over $14.00 lb but I would pay almost anything for these delectible morsels. Viva Calabria!!

  32. My parents are from Calabria and Lampascione were a staple our Christmas Eve dinner. In our dialect from a small paese near the city of Crotone we called them \\

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