culinary muscari - on topic

Jim McKenney
Tue, 10 Feb 2009 16:36:39 PST
Jane McGary wrote: " Cipolline are not muscari bulbs, they are...

Thank you, Jane, for introducing the correct spelling of the word cipolline
into this thread. 

I hope someone from Italy chimes into this thread to tell us if the muscari
bulbs are also called cipolline. In the same way that the various chicories
are called lettuces in the markets, it would not surprise me to learn that
the term cipolline is used for a variety of not-necessarily-related bulby

When we adopt culinary terms from other languages we rarely use then in
strict accordance with their original meaning. Take the term prosciutto: ask
most Americans, even those who write professionally on food, and they will
tell you it is a raw ham product. But I've read that in Italian, the word
prosciutto simply means ham. What we call prosciutto is called in Italian
prosciutto crudo (raw ham). What most of us call ham is called prosciutto
cotto (cooked ham). 

Now I'll tell a story on myself. I've been working on my Italian
pronunciation lately. One of the things which drives Italians crazy about
the way many foreigners pronounce their language is the failure to maintain
a crisp distinction between single and double consonants. In spelling the
word cippoline, I broke several rules at once: I did not simply misspell the
word, I failed to maintain that distinction between single and double
consonants at both ends of the word (I was multitasking).

Now back to practice... 

Jim McKenney

-----Original Message-----
From: []
On Behalf Of Jane McGary
Sent: Tuesday, February 10, 2009 6:55 PM
To: Pacific Bulb Society
Subject: Re: [pbs] culinary muscari - on topic

Diane wrote,

At 11:52 AM 2/10/2009, you wrote:
>Yesterday I was served some "balsamic onions" which were muscari
>bulbs.  They tasted good.
>They are from Italy, called cipollini, and are Muscari comosum.
>Cornucopia II says that M. comosum is really Leopoldia comosa, tassel
>hyacinth, and that it is also eaten in Greece.  Wild bulbs are
>preferred to cultivated ones.    I'm not growing that one.

Cipolline are not muscari bulbs, they are a variety of the cultivated 
onion (Allium). They are now increasingly seen in supermarkets here 
and starts can be purchased from Territorial Seed. They are small and 
very flattened in shape. They are tasty and rather hard to prepare 
because the stem tends to go all through the center and you have to 
cut it loose. The "balsamic" in the dish described probably was the 
vinegar used in the preparation.

Muscari comosum is eaten in Greece and I have tried it, but it was 
too bitter for me, even though they leach out some of the compounds 
in preparing it. Leopoldia is an older synonym for the "tassel" 
muscari species; it has been sunk in Muscari now.

Jane McGary

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