Lampascioni (Tassel hyacinta)

The pampasciuni (Apulian dialect word for lampascioni) is a distant relative of the garlic, but it differs from it in both shape and taste. It is a herbaceous plant (Leopolia comosa is its scientific name) common in the mediterranean territory.
It is distinguishable for its mauvish flowers which bloom in spring and last until the end of summer. This plant's most appreciated feature in Alta Murgia's culinary tradition, however, is its bulb. Said bulb is found underground and harvested four years after it's been planted; it resembles a small onion and has a bitter taste. These plants are primarily (and almost exclusively) eaten in the regions of Apulia and Basilicata, they are harvested by hand and serve in the preparation of many traditional recipes. They also posess a multitude of health-restoring properties.

Valued since the times of the Egyptians, the Greeks and the Romans, the lampascione's virtue have been celebrated by the famous Greek doctor Galeno as well as many other scholars of the antiquity, who believed this plant to be aphrodisiac. It is rich in flavonoids, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, copper, manganese and magnesium, vitamins and mineral salts, and a substantial amount of water and fibers. In addition to having low calories (ideal for keeping in shape), it has diuretic, laxative, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and softening properties. It also helps lower blood pressure and percentage of fat in the blood, increases appetite and stimulates digestion. Furthermore, a peculiar feature of the lampascioni is the mucilage, a substance which - when in contact with water - inflates, producing softening and refreshing effects to the intestine.
They can be served raw in salads, pickled as appetizers and cooked, as ingredients for making traditional sauces.

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