Wednesday, June 14, 2006

An embarrassment of Riches

I may complain sometimes about the lack of great Mexican food here in Italy, no good mangoes, no tomatillos or poblano peppers to speak of, but all in all, Southern Europe kicks ass in terms of fresh produce. One of the most shocking examples of this are the fig trees you see growing everywhere like weeds. They spring out of cracks in walls and sidewalks, they grow by the side of the highway like so much poison sumac. In Chicago, figs when they are available, are revered. They appear at Caputo's Italian market for at least 2 bucks per pint and you don't even want to know what they charge for Whole Foods' fig preserves. In Italy, you reach up and grab them for free sometimes. In the open-air markets, they almost give them away yet no-one but me seems shocked at this. So lo and behold, at my friend, Amalia's house today what did I spy growing out of the window-box among the snap-dragons? This sneaky weed!

10 Comments:

Anonymous scott said...

Fantastico, Susan. Some friends of ours who used to live down the street had a big fig tree in their yard that hung over the fence into the street, where passersby could snatch a fig or two. Then they moved, and the new owners pruned the tree back beyond the fenceline - no more figs for the taking.

Figs could be the centerpiece of a kind of Euell Gibbons foraged feast - I look forward to that post!

8:59 PM  
Anonymous scott said...

Fantastico, Susan. Some friends of ours who used to live down the street had a big fig tree in their yard that hung over the fence into the street, where passersby could snatch a fig or two. Then they moved, and the new owners pruned the tree back beyond the fenceline - no more figs for the taking.

Figs could be the centerpiece of a kind of Euell Gibbons foraged feast - I look forward to that post!

8:59 PM  
Blogger Lea said...

Wow!
Its funny, I was just having a conversation today about how we take for granted what grows wild in our area, and then complain because some things just dont grow here. For instance, all through morel season, I had to read on bloggers about everyone eating their tastey morels, but here in Florida, theyre difficult to get fresh. But at the same time, we have some of the most exotic and wonderful plants... bananas, lychee, all range of citrus, mangos, papaya, avocado.. it goes on and on.

Grass is always greener on the other side I guess! lol

9:45 PM  
Anonymous paz said...

If I were in Italy with you, I'd be in awe too with all the available produce! I'd love to shop at their open air market. Wish I were there right now. ;-)


What sneaky weed????

Paz (who knows nothing)

11:27 PM  
Anonymous paz said...

P.S. Your lunch description below with Gigliola sounded divine! Wish I were there. In the mean time, I'm going to try to recreate it. ;-)

Paz

11:39 PM  
Blogger Susan in Italy said...

Hi Scott, so in your neighborhood figs are/were considered community property as well! Thanks for the heads up on Euell Gibbons. I forage for lots of greens in Greece ut never elsewhere.

Lea, you're so right! Some friends from the Virgin Islands visited here and marvelled over the flavor of tomatoes (in November, no less) and to hear them, you'd think there was nothing to eat in the Caribbean:)

Hi Paz, Well, come on over! Sorry, for the confusion, the "sneaky weed" is a volunteer baby fig plant that appeared in my friend's windowbox.

9:50 AM  
Blogger a.c.t said...

A friend of mine near Gaeta also has a fig tree in her back garden. One summer we stuffed ourselves silly of figs as there were so many of them - they just seem to keep growing.

6:50 PM  
Anonymous Dave said...

Figs are somewhat expensive here in Qld, Australia. The going rate is $19.95/kg, which just seems a tad too expensive to bother with, so I have very little experience with figs, beyond the odd fig jam or dried fig.

On the other hand, bananas and mangoes grow easily here, and mulberries are wild for the picking. It's currently strawberry season and the fresh new produce is deliciously sweet. (We're lucky enough to have two strawberry seasons a year here).

7:28 AM  
Blogger Susan in Italy said...

Hi a.c.t. and Dave, The stuffung-yuorself-with-figs experience reminds me of vacations in Greece. There's nothing like healthy gluttony. To me, a mulberry would be the most exotic of fruits. I don't think I've ever seen one. What are they like?

11:29 AM  
Blogger a.c.t said...

I've never tried one nor have I ever seen one. Now that you've mentioned it, I'll keep an eye out..

12:00 PM  

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