One of the things I like about living in a rural village in Italy is all the food discoveries I make. It’s funny, but I’m now so hyper-aware of the lack of food variety in American markets I get depressed just standing in one. Of course, some times a little foraging (and knowledge of available edibles) is required.
Take last night. We had returned from Portugal with a trunkload of baccala as requested by neighbor Armando. When we delivered it, his wife Francesca invited us to dinner to try some. Last night we did. But what was interesting and new to me was what we found when we got there.
Besides the baccala simmering away in tomato sauce with olives on the stove, Martha spotted a bright red bowl of white flowers on Francesca’s dining table, flowers of the kind we see fluttering in the breeze and lining the road between our village and the larger village of Sericciolo this time of year. There was some hot oil in a fry pan on the stove next to the fish. There were those same flowers swimming in a bowl of loose batter next to it.
Together, all these elements made Acacia flower fritters, or fritelle di acacia. They were the hit of the dinner. Not that the two courses, lentil soup and baccala, didn’t hold their own, mind you, but we expect delicious food from Francesca—and haven’t been disappointed yet. Someday she will start a Bed and Breakfast and tourists will never leave the place to tour the Lunigiana because they will be content with just eating—and will probably be too full to move.
Anyway, I did some poking around on the internet this morning and find that these acacia fritters are nothing new. In fact, they’re just part of the fabric of Cucina Povera in Italy. Sometimes you just eat what falls from the tree.
Rubber Slippers in Italy has a recipe for acacia flower fritters, in fact.
But, as you see in the picture above, the flowers aren’t from the true acacia, which has yellowish and quite different flowers, as we discussed with Armando before dinner. They’re from, I believe, Robinia pseudoacacia, pseudoacacia or false acacia. Real acacia is a southern hemisphere plant as far as I’ve been able to tell. So the acacia DOP honey produced in these parts isn’t “real” acacia either. Hmmm. Not that anyone cares, because it tastes good and is unique—just an interesting observation here.
Also, Italians make many of their own liquors from plant infusions. Yes, you can make one out of acacia flowers