You may think of Sicily as the land of lemons, blood oranges, and prickly pear cactus fruit, but have you heard of the tiny wild strawberries that grow here? That's right, there is a miniature variety of bright red and delicious strawberries that grow right here in Sicily. The Italian word for strawberry is fragola, and one of my favorite things I've learned in Italian is to add the suffix -ino or -ina to the end of a word to make it small. Which makes the tiny strawberry a fragolina! Now that you know what to call it, let's see where it comes from and what to do with it.
If you've read any of my blog you know that I love anything with a cool story, and the fragolina is no different. The history of the fragolina goes back to a company of Sicilian soldiers during World War I who came across tiny strawberries growing wild in the Italian Alps, also known as the Dolomites. Fun fact: the proper way to say this is with four syllables (Do-lo-meet-ez) and not as three syllables with a long i and silent e. Now that I've had my teachable moment, let's get back to the strawberries. The soldiers loved the little strawberries so much that they brought clippings back to Sicily and began to grow them here. Luckily for us, the wild strawberries took to the climate! They used to grow abundantly throughout the Verdura River Valley on the southern coast of the island; however, they now only grow in two small towns named Ribera and Sciacca (pronounced "Shaka").
While average size strawberries also grow in Sicily, and are quite delicious as well, it's the little sister of the strawberry family that steals the show here. What the fragolina lacks in size, it more than makes up for in flavor. These tiny little suckers pack a punch! They have a bright red color, intense fragrance, and a tart flavor that will give you a little shiver if you eat more than one at a time. But the real magic is in the desserts!
Due to its strong flavor, the fragolina is perfect for making jams, syrups, and even gelato! The tart flavor also combines perfectly with traditional Sicilian cakes, tarts and other desserts that have sweet ricotta filling. The Sicilians are masters of sweets, to the point that it's almost cruel. I mean, how can a girl get ready for swimsuit season when there is cake to be eaten?? Here is just a small sampling of the evil genius behind Sicilian strawberry pastry making.
Who's ready for dessert? I hope you enjoyed this little delve into the world of wild Sicilian strawberries. Cheers to eating your way through your next travel destination!
As always, thank you for reading. Got a taste for more of Sicily's flavors? Check out these delicious posts!
Or read more about my Sicilian adventures here!