During the summer in Sicily, tenerumi–the leaves of the cucuzza, a type of Sicilian zucchini–take over outdoor markets. Tenerumi, an iconic vegetable of the island, is sautéed with garlic and eaten alone, added to soups and stews, or made into a simple pasta sauce with cherry tomatoes.
The leaves of this special zucchini plant (the zucchini itself is a strange sight, long and twisting) are enormous, with curling, unruly tendrils that look like overgrown sweet peas. All across Sicily, families pass along their recipes for tenerumi leaves. The differences can be subtle or grande, but one thing all islanders agree on: Tenerumi is good for you. There’s nothing like mamma’s tenerumi and tomato soup to soothe a sore throat or a sensitive stomach.
Though tenerumi might be hard to find by in your corner of the world, just knowing about this wonder leaf can focus our attention on other hearty leafy greens that make excellent substitutes. Like tenerumi, spinach, chard and kale have dense and thick leaves, and are loaded with nutrients that will help you stay nourished during treatment.
All of these sturdy greens are high in antioxidants, which may protect cells from the damage caused by unstable molecules, or free radicals. Leafy greens are also a great source of fiber, which helps you maintain regular digestion when you’re in treatment or on medication. They also are high in calcium and iron to help you maintain strength and precious energy.
The simple recipe below is for tenerumi and tomato soup. If you’re not in Sicily, fear not — any leafy green, or combination of leaves, will work well in this soup. Pick your favorite, make a big pot, and mangia!
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