Field Trip: More Italy!

There’s nothing quite so exotic as a farmers market in a foreign country. You get to see the staples of the local diet on display. Here in the US, we see peppers and eggplant and tomatoes just like in Italy, but the varieties are different and there’s so much more.

Radicchio, fennel, porcini mushrooms and chestnuts are readily available at Italian farmers markets right now. Just remember, the rules there are different: don’t touch the produce, tell the vendor what you want and they will package it for you. Take a look at this market in Venice, Italy, where we took a quick day trip.

Fennel, chicory (otherwise known as radicchio in Italy), artichokes and more.

Fennel, chicory (radicchio goes by this name too in Italy), artichokes and more.

Colorful peppers sold by the bunch

Colorful peppers sold by the bunch

Mushroom were available everywhere. The Chianti region is famous for their porcini mushrooms. Practically every dish was flavored to perfection with them.

Mushroom were available everywhere. The Chianti region is famous for their porcini mushrooms. Practically every dish was flavored with them to perfection.

Artichoke hearts sold fresh, floating in water.

Artichoke hearts sold fresh, floating in water.

Chestnuts are a big tradition in Europe in fall. Street vendors roast them in makeshift stoves (usually made from trash can lids).

Chestnuts are a big tradition in Europe in fall. Street vendors roast them in makeshift stoves (usually made from trash can lids).

Speaking of chestnuts, we went hiking one day and found them all over the ground. They drop from trees in spiky pods (that hurt, BTW) and open to reveal several nuts inside.

We might have smuggled a few home to eat, not grow. Our soil isn't acidic enough for chestnut trees.

We might have smuggled a few home to eat, not grow. Our soil isn’t acidic enough for chestnut trees.

Hiking in Italy is surprisingly similar to Southern California trails. We have the same weeds.

Hiking in Italy is surprisingly similar to Southern California trails. We have the same weeds. Not surprising, since we’re both in a Mediterranean climate.

But back to local markets! My favorite sight to see is the refrigerator truck selling cheeses and such usually relegated to our supermarkets. I wish everything were available at the farmers market!

A beautiful cheese truck in Greve in Chianti.

A beautiful cheese truck in Greve in Chianti.

Fruits and nuts at a farmers market in Greve in Chianti

Fruits and nuts at a farmers market in Greve in Chianti. Oh, and that sign means they have fresh olives.

Dried fruits, cashews and ginger available off the truck.

Dried fruits, cashews and ginger available off the truck.

As a closer, we wandered through a town called Colle Val D’elsa in the Sienna region one day, and for some reason every single shop was closed except for one. We asked the lady–a ceramicist–what was going on and she said she had no idea, “I’m the only idiot who came to work today.” At a nearby shop we spotted this front door display:

Giant squash decorate the store front for fall in Colle Val D'elsa.

Giant squash decorate the store front for fall in Colle Val D’elsa.

Here’s to fall, farmers markets, and closing up shop just for the heck of it every once in awhile! Happy gardening.

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