Garmugia is a springtime soup from Lucca, traditionally associated with seasonal transition and renewal, much like a variety of Italian specialty soups at this time of the year. Throughout southern Italy, for instance, a soup known as macco di fave made from dried fava beans, peas and herbs is prepared on or around the feast of Saint Joseph on March 19 (hence its other name, macco di San Giuseppe). Similarly, around the town of Teramo in Abruzzo, a dense, hearty soup of beans, peas, grains, vegetables and herbs called le virtù appears in time for calendimaggio, or May Day, an ancient festivity marking the arrival of spring.
Like its counterparts, the principal ingredients of garmugia are those abundant and readily available in spring months. While once this soup might have fallen into the “lean” or “poor” category of la cucina povera dishes, generations of changing tastes and improved economic circumstances have seen the addition of fats and meats. (Garmugia is also said to have been popular with Italian nobles, which could account for the inclusion of meat, items otherwise too dear for peasants and the working classes.) Given its mega dose of nutrients, together with the symbolic association with rebirth and rejuvenation, garmugia has long been considered a dish suited to the sick or convalescing, pregnant women or those about to embark on any particularly challenging task. Its names appears to derive from the Italian word germoglio, meaning “bud” or “sprout” but also “origin” and “beginning”.
Recipes for garmugia vary. The most traditional version uses a simple vegetable broth and includes ground lamb, which is cooked together with the pancetta; another calls for beef stock and ground beef. The recipe here leaves out the ground meat and calls for homemade chicken stock. Any artichoke variety works well as long as they are small and tender, and the asparagus should be fresh and crisp. Spring onions could replace the scallions.