Seeds Of Italy

Seeds Of Italy

Rich tomatoes, spicy garlic, fresh oregano and basil--nothing smells better coming out of the oven than Italian food.

In Italy, growing good food, cooking good food, and eating good food all go hand in hand. A vegetable garden, or orto, is common in an Italian yard. Tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, and aubergines (eggplant) are easily grown staples of Italian cooking. Salad greens and herbs round out the garden.

A traditional Italian garden contains artichokes, cardoon, several types of beans and tomatoes, beets, and squash. You’ll find basil, oregano, fennel, and parsley the featured herbs.

Agriculturally, only 5% of land in Italy is cultivated, but the temperate Mediterranean climate makes Italy a leader in production of olive oil. They are major exporters of tomatoes, rice, and wine.

Tomatoes are a staple food in Italy. Salsa di Pomodoro alla Spagnola, the oldest known Italian recipe featuring tomatoes, dates to the 17th century. There are many varieties of tomato, Roma being the most common in traditional Italian cooking. Tomatoes grow on bushes, producing green fruits that ripen on the vine and are picked when red and firm. Tomatoes love heat and humidity, so a hot-house environment is perfect for growing them.

Italian herbs such as oregano, basil, and rosemary are simple to grow from seed in a kitchen garden or in pots on the windowsill. Many herbs are perennials; plant them once and they return again and again, growing larger with each passing year.

Cooking with fresh herbs is easy. Pinch off a few leaves, chop with a sharp knife (or snip with scissors) and add to your recipe. The plants continue to produce new growth, as long as the weather stays mild. Planted in containers, they produce year-round.

Healthy plants come from good seeds. Many companies sell heirloom seeds from cultivars that are often 100 to150 years old. These seeds are open-pollinated, not artificially hand-pollinated. Heirloom vegetables have superior growth, color, and flavor.

Franchi Seeds, an Italian seed company, was founded in 1783. Giovanni Franchi began by selling his seeds from a horse-drawn cart around the markets of Parma, Italy. Seven generations have passed and today Giampiero Franchi is in charge of the oldest family-run seed company in the world.

It is an Italian custom to complement a meal with good wine. The Italians produce and export more wine than any other country, and their wines are often rated as some of the world’s finest. An Italian meal usually consists of several courses, from antipasti to dessert, and different wines complement each course.

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