The members of Menfi community passionately and tirelessly devote themselves to their farming and fishing activities and each season has its own rituals, harvest and produce. In winter, until April, the farmers harvest the local thorny artichoke, while in May the shepherds begin the production of the typical DOP cheeses, tuma and vastedda del Belice. In June the ancient Sicilian grain varieties are reaped to make bread and other baked products. In the summer, starting in July, the fishermen’s nets overflow with sardines caught in the sea of Selinunte. Tomatoes are picked in August and the entire family takes part in the ritual of tomato sauce preparation. In September the whole area is involved in harvesting the grapes which will yield great wines, while in October the Biancolilla, Cerasuola and Nocellara olives are harvested to make an excellent Val di Mazara DOP olive oil.
When summer rolls around, families are involved in the preparation of tomato sauce. Tasks are divided among family members, and tomatoes are picked from the vegetable garden, washed, dried, de-stemmed, simmered in a very large pot over an olive wood burning fire, and squeezed into a sauce which is eventually poured into bottles that will preserve it for months. This way, the summer’s scents can be enjoyed all winter long.
The Menfi area is scattered with magnificent olive trees of the Biancolilla, Nocellara and Cerasuola varieties, used to produce olive oil with intense flavors and fascinating colors which enriches the dishes of country tradition all year round. There is nothing like the taste of a slice of bread seasoned with olive oil, salt and oregano gathered on the hills.
Fresh cheeses such as vastedda, tuma, primo sale and the more delicate ricotta are made from the milk of free-range sheep and Girgentana goats. These are ancient traditional cheeses whose flavor display the scents of the large variety of herbs growing spontaneously on the pasture lands. Fresh, fragrant and delicate, they are the key ingredients of all local country recipes.
The sea facing the Menfi coast is well-known for its abundant and excellent blue fish. In the summer, fishermen pull up their nets laden with fragrant and tasty sardines. According to ancient tradition, they are char-grilled “allo spitu”, a skewer made from the canes that grow spontaneously. Seasoned with salt and oil and accompanied by slices of red onion, they are truly delicious!
The violet thorny artichoke, a sweet, tender and very scented variety which has become a Slow Food presidium, is a specialty of the Menfi area, a traditional crop revived by the efforts of a new generation of dedicated farmers. Stewed, grilled, or cooked alla villanella (farmstyle), fresh artichokes are widely used to prepare excellent typical dishes, either alone or mixed with other “illustrious” vegetables such as fava beans and peas.
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