I miss root vegetables

I never thought I would type those words. Not that I’m a huge fan but when you can’t have something, well… anyway we just don’t have root vegetables here. No beets, no turnips, no parsnips, no rutabaga, no celery root, no kohlrabi. Once in a blue moon I’ve seen them, and if I do see them, I snatch them up. I like these vegetables in wintertime. They are filling and earthy and warming.

My friend Elizabeth told me yesterday, when I was whining about this, “they are not Mediterranean. Why would you expect them here”? But as you know, my friend Vera brought me some turnips from her mother-in-law’s garden. So they DO grow here just fine.

I guess it is a matter of taste. And a matter of tradition. Italians are very, very traditional. If it was good enough for their nonno, it is good enough for them! It is why we don’t have any Thai, Indian, or Mexican restaurants to speak of here. At least in rural Italy. Italians don’t tend to embrace new tastes and flavors. In the big cities you will find more diverse foods.

Anyway, as I leafed through my Six Seasons cookbook to look at the last season in it, winter, I realized there were very few recipes I could actually make here. Oh well. It doesn’t matter. There are many other things to make.

I was out at the local market this morning and made a concerted effort to see if I had just overlooked them in the past. Sadly, there’s were none. There is an abundance of winter veggies here in the winter, so I won’t complain. I came home with full bags.

A friend sent a recipe for lentil, leek and potato soup. I need leeks and potatoes to make it. Oddly, there was a big run on leeks. I was waiting at one stand and the guy in front of me bought them all! tutti! Grrr. And there were a bunch too. Then I went to the next two stands and they said “finito”. Finally at the last stand were about 8 left. So I waited my turn. A guy came up and told his wife he would get the leeks…over my dead body!! Success. (I’m nice, so I left him half…)

Tonight I have a nice fire. It is really cold and snow is predicted this weekend. The fire warms the kitchen…I hardly ever have a fire without using it to cook. So today, at the butcher, we got a Bistecca Fiorentina. Or Steak Florentine. It is huge!! But it will be good…

The things we do to amuse ourselves! Stay safe and well everyone.

16 thoughts on “I miss root vegetables

  1. Nancy Hampton Post author

    I lived in Germany for 6 years and they had allotments. I was always interested in what they each decided to do with theirs. Many went the little house way with a porch and the BBQ grill. And a garden. Very bucolic! Enjoy.

  2. Philip Atkinson

    A kilometre zero market says the difference between Perugia and Terni. Around us allotments are nearly always done by the over 80s. There is sometimes a chance to get a good one with a well. My partner has built a cabin with kitchen, bathroom and bedroom so we can spend a few days in rural tranquility.

  3. Nancy Hampton Post author

    We have two markets Phil. One is the big one that goes from town to town on the market days. And yes, the big stands have cheap produce – I do not buy it except their citrus or artichokes. Most of it is brought up from the south. I agree this is not optimal. There is one little stand that has a sign saying it is their own production, so I buy from them on Wednesday. But it’s completely different on Saturday when we have the “kilometer zero market” all must be local production made or grown by the vendor. The same man, who I buy from on Wednesday is also here on Saturday. I know him and where his farm is. As I do with the honey producer, the winery, the cheese stands and the porchetta makers. I’m definitely partial to the local Saturday market. But I envy you your garden! I would grow corn, tomatillos, turnips, parsnips, etc. I grow hot peppers already on my terrace. And all my herbs.

  4. Philip Atkinson

    I am just south of Terni on the border with Lazio. I suspect the choice here of produce is not as good as Umbertide. Northern Umbria is richer than the south. Terni market concentrates on low cost produce. Our garden has been very good during lockdown. A useful refuge.

  5. Nancy Hampton Post author

    Hi Philip, where are you located? I’ve always gardened so I know home grown is excellent, and I enjoy doing it. But living here in Italy I also know our local farmers and their produce is no different than my home grown. Only difference is that they choose what they grow. If I were growing I would pick the varieties and things I grow, yes. There is one farmer who has heirloom tomatoes which are excellent. But most of the “in season” tomatoes are great here. New potatoes are excellent. One thing here is, you’ll never see anything out of season in the local markets. Anyway, happy growing!

  6. Philip Atkinson

    I grow new potatoes and they are better than anything you can buy. Also there are tomato varieties not available in shops. My land is 3km from home and not near the appartment. I have grown sweetcorn but it seems to go floury when the weather is very hot.

  7. Nancy Hampton Post author

    Hi Philip, it is a long story 🙂. I have not found anyplace to rent to grow things here. I did borrow a bit of land to try to grow sweet corn, which I miss more that anything. It was an ok experiment but I need better land. That all said, our local market outside my front door are all local growers so the food is top notch, local, fresh, and healthy. I can’t get a few things because they aren’t eaten here but I’ve got plenty of other good healthy and fresh things! 🙂

  8. Philip Atkinson

    You could rent a bit of land and grow your own. I grow potatoes, leeks, beetroot, onions and artichokes in my allotment in Umbria. You just need plenty of water for irrigation. Home grown veg is usually tastier than the bought stuff.

  9. Nancy Hampton Post author

    I’ve asked around and no one I know has seen any of them. And we aren’t all THAT far apart. Strano!

  10. Kathleen Shepard

    Nancy, I have found almost all of those root vegetables in various stores in our Montefiascone/Viterbo area.

  11. Nancy Hampton Post author

    There are tons of greens like chard, kale, Tuscan black kale, spinach. Lettuces. We have a few winter squashes. Also fennel bulbs. Broccoli. Cauliflower. Leeks. cabbages, red and green and white. Normal carrots, celery, onions, potatoes, garlic. That’s about it!

  12. Leslee

    I guess it’s like the old song but with a couple of changes. If you can’t eat what you love, then love what you can eat. Take care.

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