Friday, February 10, 2012

A Taste of Winter

Dreaded February had to come--and we are doing much better overall than the whole rest of Italy--we see the poor northerners on the news digging out (with tiny shovels) from under what looks like a Michigan snowfall. The late arrival of winter for us so far just brought cold and a dusting of snow. The cold got us thinking of nice warming soups which led to searching for recipes. This, in turn, got me looking at what is available in the shops this time of year which, in turn, got me thinking the origin of all the fresh produce during the winter. We try to buy as much as possible in the village, but end up in Scalea a good bit looking for things we can't find at home. The shops here sell mostly local produce with some trucked-in items. This time of year while they have less, at least it stays fresh a little longer since the shops are not heated and probably average 10C. 

In summer we are forced to buy greens in packages in Scalea because no one refrigerates their greens.  Unless you happen to be there early when a shipment arrives, it wilts quickly in the heat.

When we raised and sold organic produce in Oregon, we pre-bagged most things and displayed it sitting on ice blocks each day in our little roadside gazebo. We are a little picky about fresh, crisp greens!

A Frutta-Verdura shop in Scalea that I use a lot has quite a bit available in the winter.  In the American north, fresh vegetables and fruit come from California, Mexico and Chile.  The owner of this shop labels many of the boxes with their place of origin. Everything he sells comes from Italy.  A little is still local, with the rest coming from elsewhere in Calabria or Sicilia. Like nice big strawberries from Pizzo (about 2 hours south).

If you travel from Roma through Southern Italy, you’ll see acres and acres of land under plastic hoop houses. This is how they manage to have so many varieties of fresh produce year-round.

Yes, of course there are some foreign imports like avocados from Israel and bananas from Central America.  I’ve even seen tiny packages of 12 raspberries shipped to the supermercato from Mexico. I couldn’t tell you where the pineapples come from, but maybe Sicilia.

That's snow on the windshield and the roof in the background.  Not bad.

Have we ever mentioned home refrigeration? A typical Italian frigo is half the size (or less) of the monsters sold in the US. Small freezers and cooler space means more frequent shopping.  I think Di likes this because it gets Guido out of her hair for a few hours many days.

Oh yes, the soup. This week we are doing leek soup, spinach soup, a bean/spinach soup, and mushroom.  We know people here eat zuppa or minestrone at home as they sell plenty of soup mixes and broth in the stores, but unless you go to the mountain towns, you do not see it on restaurant menus. If it stays cold, we might have to whip-up some good ole’ Tex-Mex chile.

Stay warm and buon appetito.


  1. Much of the food in our region is still local produce in season. Although the availability of out of season fruit and veg from abroad has increased since we moved here.
    It has been snowing all day here and we are in the grips of a blizzard now. You may have seen the photos I posted this week.

  2. I was interrupted in a response b lightning that knocked-out the wireless tower for a day! Yes we saw your cool ice photos. Watching the TV reports of the storms through Italy. We only had rain.
    Stay warm!

  3. I always love the fresh Italian produce, even the pre-bagged stuff... it's not great here.

    Nice sunny drawings & photos on my blog though as our winter is slightly different :)



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