I have been waiting for the past three and a half years for the opportunity to travel back to Italy with one thought on my mind: Produce.
When I was in Italy in 2017, food was something that our trip revolved around. From gelato to focaccia to tomatoes to grapes, we wanted to try it all. My family and I traveled along the west coast of the country stopping at restaurants of all kinds. Amongst the pastas and the pizzas and other carbs, the produce stole my heart. The fruit was fresh and vibrant and the vegetables were packed with more flavor than I thought imaginable. Now that I am in Rome for this prolonged period of time, I am taking a moment to settle and ensure that what I am buying is local and in season. Luckily, the entire country of Italy is smaller than the state of California, so buying Italian produce almost ensures that it is local.
In this post I just wanted to highlight some of the fresh fruit and vegetables that I have eaten in my past week and a half living in Italy!
Pictured above is one of the sweetest peaches I have ever eaten. They have no label on them in the store other than “Pesca Italia”, which literally translates to “Peach Italy”. Therefore, I do not know their variety or region, but all that I can tell you is that they are juicy, wonderful, and have the most beautiful coloration.
Yes, I did buy a 16.3 kilogram watermelon. For everyone reading this that grew up with the metric system like I did, that is a whopping 35.9 pounds. Fortunately, this was being sold at the convenience store right near my apartment, so I only had to carry it about 1.5 blocks and up one flight of stairs. Watermelons here always have those dark black seeds in them and you can choose to eat them or spit them out (I chose to eat them). Because it is already September, if I had to guess, I would say that this watermelon came from the northern regions of Italy due to the fact that their growing season usually is completed before the fall equinox. This watermelon took me about a week to consume completely even with the help of some of my roommates. It was the best refreshing snack after the walk home from classes in the 90º heat!
Next, I bought this package of green grapes not knowing what to expect. As you can see on the outside of the package, the southern island of Sicily is highlighted in red, which is where these hail from. I was not sure what to expect when I bought them, so imagine my surprise as I bite into my first one and crunch down on the tannic little seeds in the middle. Have you ever had a glass of wine that makes your mouth feel like it is bone dry even though you’re consuming a liquid?? These little seeds, along with the skin, are what creates that sensation, so when you bite directly into them the feeling is very overwhelming. After I laughed at myself for a minute, I continued to eat them whilst carefully spitting the seeds out. The flesh is tart and simultaneously sweet with a crisp texture. They are the most addicting snack and I will be buying a lot more as we move further into grape season.
Avocados are one of my staple foods back home due to the fact that they are so versatile and packed with protein. I was happy to see that there were a lot of avocados in the market, most of which were from Sicily. They have all been perfectly ripe and I have been enjoying them on rice cakes with a little salt, pepper and dried garlic!
Last, but most certainly not least, is the tomato. Even as I sit here and write this, my mouth waters over the thought. These are the most delicious tomatoes I have ever had. Back at home I used to think that the homegrown tomatoes from my backyard were the best, but wow was I wrong! The tomatoes here are so packed with flavor and have the most satisfying, firm texture. They are always juicy and most often served on a toasted piece of Italian bread. The crunchy crust soaks up all of the juice and creates the perfect pairing. If I could bring these seeds home to attempt to grow them myself, I would, but alas the United States Department of Agriculture has other ideas. Sadly, you cannot bring tomato or pepper seeds back to the United States from Italy due to the risk of introducing new viruses that could be very damaging to crops all around the world. So for now, I will continue to eat as many as possible with the hopes of hanging on to the taste for as a long as I can!
I cannot wait to get the chance to go to a public market to interact with the farmers directly and find out more about the incredible produce this country has to offer. Stay tuned!
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