Eden Fruits, a shop in Viterbo where the majority of the fruit and vegetables come from local suppliers, always has the best of the season’s crops available. I know everything is very fresh as when I buy spinach, following a day of rain, it is covered in mud!
Some vegetables you may not have seen before include cardoons (cardi in Italian and gobbi in Viterbese dialect – gobbo literally means hunchback). It tastes of artichokes and looks a bit like celery. You peel off the outer tough strands and steam or boil for about 20 minutes. It is often cooked alla Parmegiana, layered with tomato sauce, topped with cheese and cooked in the oven.
Oranges, mandarins and tangarines are full of flavour at the moment. I love the Tarochi oranges. I always choose those that will be red inside labeled sanguinati (bloody). If you prefer them yellow look for those marked gialli.
Another very popular salad vegetable found in our area is puntarelle. This is a leafy chicory type salad that at this time of year forms new shoots at its heart. Slice them finely and put into ice cold water and leave for a few hours. Serve them with a dressing made by pounding together a clove of garlic, 3 anchovy fillets and the juice of half a lemon. Then add a little olive oil whisking to form an emulsion. It is lovely to have something really crunchy during the winter.
The puntarelle with the anchovy dressing ready to be mixed together
Insalata mista (mixed greens) ready for a flavorful fresh salad
Every time I shop at one of the local produce shops I am reminded again of how much the seasons are represented by what’s filling the bins on any given day. This month the stores are overflowing with wonderful deep greens and purples: spinach, chicory, chards, kales, endive, broccoli, cauliflower, romanesco, fennel and artichokes. Many grocers are selling insalata mista which makes a wonderful green salad right out of the bag.
A good recipe to try this time of year to take advantage of winter greens is a local soup called aquacotto or aquapazza (literally “crazy water”), a traditional meal of Viterbo and surrounding villages.
One of my favorite produce shops on via Mazzini, Viterbo
More mixed greens, erbelle, chicory and other greens.
We bought delicious pecorino staginato from this vendor from Bolsena/Montefiascone.
Even in January, the fruit and vegetable markets have boxes of fresh produce from local farmers. This morning we visited the local market on Via Teverina, a five minute drive from the center of Viterbo. Artichokes from Tarquinia, broccoli and other greens from Acquapendente, local honeys and an outstanding cheese vendor from Bolsena/Montefiascone lined the small parking lot.