Italian Seeds

We’ve just returned from a romantic sojourn in the beautiful, misty and mysterious city of Venice (is Venice a city – I guess it is). First things first – Venice is beautiful and everyone must go to see it at least once in their life. It’s the law. Secondly, there are no taxis (well if you don’t count water taxis) so my feet are officially ‘killing me’ after walking what felt like the length of Italy along tiny cobbled streets and even smaller stone bridges. But…I’m not complaining because I managed to squeeze in some seed shopping (yes! I found a seed shop – in Venice.). To my complete delight we rounded a corner after exiting the Vivaldi violin museum (did you know that he was a priest before a composer?) – and there, large as you like, was this stand, groaning under the weight of beautiful, coloured seed packets. Yey! Myself and some Chinese tourists could hardly contain ourselves as we tried to turn the little stand without being totally rude and whisking it around just when the other is reaching for a packet. Still, after much deliberation I decided on three packs – a Tomato variety called Pomodoro a Grappolo Robin, a thin-leaf, ‘Italian’ (is there any other kind?) Basil called Verde Compatto, and a vegetable that is completely new for me Raperonzolo, which can only be described as looking like a white carrot. I asked the shop-keeper how to cook it and, as he didn’t speak English, he made a chopping action with his hands and then pretended to eat something. I’m not sure if that means you should eat it raw, or not, but at least it confirms that it ‘is’ for eating. Anyway – I’m soooo excited about growing my Italian seeds that they now have pride of place in my seed box (ie. right at the front).

11 Comments on “Italian Seeds

  1. I am green with envy. Next time take me with you! You might find that less romantic, but at least I can translate some of what the seed sellers are telling you!

    Raperonzolo is Italian for ‘Rapunzel’ – perhaps this plant has very long leaves? According to some Italian sites I’ve looked at, the leaves can be eaten as salad (in April!) and the roots can be used in gravies and sauces, or, in small pieces in a risotto. It tastes ‘pleasant’ and ‘slightly sweetish’. ‘Best of all’, apparently, is if it’s boiled and served in vinegar. (Sounds a bit horse-radish-like to me!)

    I hope this is helpful.

  2. How thrilling. Best bit of foreign travel is always the vegetable exotica that you find in seed shops!

    We went to Venice in January this year, and it was marvellous. Cold, foggy and gorgeous. Arrived after dark in a pea-soup fog and took the vaporetto down the grand canal. You could only hear the slops of the water against the boat and see vague shadows of buildings looming out of the mist… but only just. Very romantic.

  3. oooh nice. Clare thanks for the tips on my ‘white carrot’ Rapunzel might be the variety name then, rather than what the vegetable is actually called. Let’s hope it doesn’t actually taste like horseradish! I’m not a fan.

  4. Jess – I just love the mist in Venice. I definitely prefer it out of season in the winter. Much more romantic I think.

  5. Oh, how thrilling. And what a marvellous souvenir – much better than a plastic gondola or all the other silly things we tend to bring back from holidays. When you eat them, you will have a little taste of your holidays all over again.

    I’ve never grown rapunzel but I know it is a salad leaf. That’s the origin of the fairytale – remember the mother wanted the salad so she made her husband steal it from the witches garden, and the witch demanded the baby girl in payment. She locked the girl in a tower and the rest of the story is well-known. I often hear the story with the beginning left off, just the bit about the tower and the hair and the prince, and so the name makes no sense. The end of the story is often left off, too, but I’ll let you look that up for yourself if you don’t know it already.

  6. Rapunzel is a radish– versions of the fairy tale have Rapunzel’s expectant mother craving the radish rather than the leaves. I think it’s similar to daikon but I might be mistaken. I’m sure it’s delicious!

  7. Ahhhh! Venice!
    I too bought some seeds when we went……irresistible!Mne were climbing courgettes and some lettuce varieties.

  8. Raperonzolo or Rampions are native to the British Isles.

    Regarding Italian seeds, have you discovered “Seeds of Italy” yet?

    I have purchased various Italian seeds from them. All have grown well, except for chick peas. Try Tromba D’Albenga which is a crook shaped squash which can be eaten young as a cougette, or left to mature as a squash. Borlotti beans have been successful as has Cavolo Nero, the trendy and tasty Tuscan Kale. Also recommended are the mixed lettuce seeds, supplied in generous qualntities.