If anyone should ask me: “What is the plant species that best represents summer for you in the gardens, courtyards or sunny terraces of Sicily?” After a thousand doubts and many afterthoughts I would say convinced: “That yes, for me the species symbol of the Sicilian summer is jasmine whose intense aroma, which hovers in the warm evening air, together with the rustling of the water distributed in the garden, is infallible remedy against the stress of the sirocco days “. But I am not referring to the scent of “a generic jasmine”, since there are more than thirty species belonging to the Jasminum genus, both shrubby and climbing plants, available from specialized nurseries, as I recently saw at the Malvarosa nursery, where a “Jasmine garden” using all the Jasminum species that make up the assorted nursery catalog. The jasmine to which I refer, which I believe is an emblem of “Sicilianity” in summer gardens, is Jasminum grandiflorum with large, white, externally pinkish flowers, produced in abundance and very fragrant.
This jasmine originating in the Himalayan region was already known and appreciated by the Persian, Chinese, Arab, Indian civilizations; the Arabs introduced it to Sicily and to every region they conquered; that’s why it is variously known by the name of Sicilian jasmine, Catalogna or Arabian jasmine. Sicilian jasmine blooms in summer and flowering continues until Christmas; its scent is truly intense and persistent and few flowers are enough to perfume terraces and gardens. The essential oil obtained from its petals is widely used in perfumery and herbal medicine, so much so that until the beginning of the last century in Sicily and Calabria it was cultivated; the collection of flowers was above all a female work with women who, at sunset and at the first light of dawn, passed through jasmine bushes to collect their flower buds from which to extract the essence.
The Sicilian jasmine is a flower traditionally present in the gardens of the island shows for example the habit of using its flowers to flavor the granita, or to produce a jasmine-scented water used for the “melon frost”; with the buds, for children the children prepared the “sponsa” a composition of jasmine flowers that was built by collecting the buds that were about to open in the evening taking care to collect them with the whole coral tube. Then they were patiently inserted one by one into the dry inflorescence of the wild carrot to which the ovary on top had been eliminated in each peduncle with a scissors. Within a few hours, the flowers so strung open and you had a rustic, small, fragrant bouquet with a stiff stem to hold in your hand.