Il serpente di Sicilia, aka the Sicilian snake, aka cucuzza longa. This is the Sicilian vegetable that catches most people's eyes the first time they visit a market in Palermo.
This vegetable might look absurd or even comical, but we can assure you, it is much less crazy than it seems!
This vegetable is simply a variety of zucchina.
The origins of this zucchina are not totally known. What we know for sure is that it is a vegetable typical of Southern Italy and Northern Africa.
The name zucchina serpente is linked to its snake-like form. In fact, it is shocking! These zucchine are so long, they can sometimes grow to be the length of adult people.
This vegetable is also know as cucuzza longa. Cucuzza is Sicilian dialect for zucchina, and longa means, well, long!
Cucuzza ni voo'?
The cucuzza longa is tender and spongy. It must be eaten while it is young, otherwise it becomes too hard to eat. It is very low in calories and it is principally made up of water, something like 90%.
This zucchina is the fruit of an invasive plant that produces very tender leaves and small buds that are used to make a typical Sicilian pasta dish: pasta con i tenerumi.
In the Palermitan diet, the zucchina itself is often steamed with tomato, potatoes, and onions and served in a room-temperature summer soup, with extra virgin olive oil and bread crostini.