Friday, July 22, 2011

'Tis the Season

I have to share a secret with you . . . shhh, don't tell anyone, it's actually quite embarrassing . . . but when I first arrived in Italy, I had no idea that vegetables had a season. I know, pretty pitiful. And, I was an adult when I moved here. Like 28. Not a clueless little child or an irresponsible teen, but a grownup who had been cooking for herself for years. 

So, what was wrong with me? Obviously, a large part of it was that I wasn't paying any attention whatsoever to the natural rhythms of the earth . . . and all that. I have always been a city girl. The kind who thinks milk creates itself spontaneously in a cartoon and that eggs come from the egg factory.

Well, not really that bad, but almost.

The fact of the matter is that having grown up in the US, I was accustomed to going to the supermarket and buying just about whatever fruits or vegetables my heart desired at whatever time of the year that urge hit me. If it wasn't in season in my area, it was surely in season somewhere else in the world and had been shipped in for my convenience.

When I first arrived in this small provincial city in southern Italy some 20 years ago, there were no large supermarkets. At all. None. Oh, they had places they called "supermarkets," but there was very little "super" about them. They were tiny little claustrophobic spaces with three, maybe four, overcrowded lanes you could barely push your child's toy of a cart through . . . and a very limited selection of produce.

The place to buy your veggies here is at the fruttivendola, your greengrocer. These can range from a smallish hole in the wall to a chair outside someone's front door on which they have set the offerings from their plot of land out in the countryside.

No genetically modified food here!
When you see a set-up like this, you know that food is fresh! Fresh, yes, but it's a rather limited selection. If your heart's desire is asparagus, but asparagus season has passed, you're just out of luck, aren't you?

That's why I have learned to cook with what's in season. It makes more sense to eat what's locally available, freshly picked from the fields, anyway. Better for you, too, I'm sure.

So, what's in season here in Puglia right now? Green beans! I've got a fast and easy pasta recipe for you over on Charming Italy. All you need to do is throw some green beans, cherry tomatoes and seasoned ricotta onto your spaghetti and you'll have yourself a fresh, light and delicious Italian meal.

Try it and let me know what you think, ok?


The Blonde Duck said...

Popped in from SITS! I would love a farmers market like that!

Jade said...

I try really hard to cook with veg in season here. Sometimes it's crazy in the supermarket, even for the veg in season they're mostly imported, it's rare to find anything from a UK farm - which is really crazy because we grow so much here.

Recently I started getting a veggie delivery box from a local farm and it's really teaching us what's in season as well as the variety of what we can grow, even in Scotland!

You're so lucky to have great greengrocers in Italy - enjoy it!

Unknown said...

You're not the only with a secret! Those beans look delicious. I am loving the cherries and watermelons these days.

Francesca said...

Oh, the fruttivendoli, how I miss them! I remember shopping at a fruttivendolo in Rome (about 15 years ago), and always paying 9000 Lire - each single time, for the entire 4 years I lived there.

Jennifer said...

As much as I love fruit all year round, you probably have it better over in Italy than at home in the U.S. Like you said, no GM foods, picked at their peak, fresh... Yum! I live for the fall because of pomegranate season - it makes them more special since I can only have them a certain time of the year!

Unknown said...

Yeah... I was even worse than you I think. Being from Alaska, I was pretty clueless about anything that requires more than 2 hours of sunlight to grow. Fruit? Complete mystery. Here, you don't buy food to fit the recipe, you choose your recipes to fit the food.

Cafe Fashionista said...

Off to check out this recipe right now - it sounds divine! :)

Heather said...

It is so true that here in the US in the middle of all our Mega stores we can become immune to the fact that fruits and veggies are seasonal. I have recently started trying to buy locally grown fruits and veggies because they really taste so much better.
My kids love green beans so I am off to try your recipe!

Renee said...

My dream is to live in a foreign land like Italy for a year so I can eat the yummy fresh food.

LPC said...

Here in California we live very much as you describe. The climate makes so much possible.

LindyLouMac said...

Not embarrassing at all as sadly in supermarkets in the UK also everything is available all year round.
As you already know one of the things I love about Italy is the way we live by the seasons here, not just those people that grow their own either!

gfe--gluten free easily said...

Gorgeous veggies and that recipe sounds divine! Simple fresh foods combined are best. :-)