In the late 1800s, planning was underway to build railways in the Okanagan. Engineers and geographers scouted out every part of our area, not only for routes, but also describing the land and its potential for agriculture. They identified many types of plants and trees that would do well here. While some of these crops are still widely grown here, two trees, the mulberry and the almond, are not. But examples of them can still be found growing well near our house.
I was surprised to hear of almond trees doing well here, but they do. Recently I was alerted to one such specimen. I had walked by this tree many times, but did not recognize it as an almond. While on the tree, almonds look much like peaches. The outer shell is fuzzy and peach coloured. The inner shell looks very much like a peach pit. The inside nut looks very much like an almond.
Almonds and peaches are so genetically alike, that they can fertilize each other and produce viable hybrids and they can also produce similar allergic reactions. They are both members of the prunus family, stone fruits that also include cherries, plums and nectarines.
The almond tree has been cultivated in Iran and other countries in Western Asia for over 6000 years. It was introduced to Greece in the 5th century BC, from where it spread to other European countries after the 3rd century BC. Almonds are the world's most widely grown and consumed tree nut, and Italy is one of the major producers. Particularly rich in aroma and flavour are those cultivated in sunny Sicily, where almonds are the most widely grown fruit, after olives. They can be either sweet or bitter - the sweet ones are widely used in confectionery, while small quantities of the bitter ones give a typical flavour to certain types of biscuits and liquors
October traditionally brings on the harvest of many types of nuts. But also still doing well are tomatoes that are grown against our house, protected from the rains and blight that typically make an early end for them. Pimentos are one of the longest growing season peppers, often making their best showing during September and October. Thanksgiving is the perfect time for harvesting and consuming one’s first squash. After they are picked it is wise to wash them with a diluted vinegar solution to remove any fruit borne fungi. After a few days drying in the sun, they can be hung up in mesh bags in a garage or other area that does not freeze.
Flowers doing well in our garden this month are nasturtiums, geraniums, fuschias and ‘Summer Storm’ our herbaceous hibiscus. Coming into their glory in October are the Pyracantha, with its red berries, and the delicate Blue Beard shrub. Late seeded crops of mixed greens and choi will ensure fresh salads well into November.
October traditional garden chores for me include taking in geranium cuttings, a pleasant chore I have been doing for over 50 years. Last year I also brought in my pepper plants, and am doing again now for year 3. Being established plants they produced early and well in this their second year.
6 things you probably didn’t know about almonds:
3 most popular Italian almonds
September is a gorgeous gardening month… harvesting crops while still enjoying the many blooms in our garden. The eight inch wide blooms of our hibiscus, the spikey purple blooms of our artichokes and the vibrant red, potted geraniums give great pleasure. Harvesting the large plump Roma tomatoes and turning them into tomato sauce is a privilege. This year I bypassed the canning process and put the sauce in the freezer instead. My winter lettuces and chois have sprouted, and when covered with clear umbrellas, should last until the end of November. Meanwhile the Romaine lettuce I have been snipping all summer has regrown back nicely. Add a new crop of butter lettuce and we have great tasting salads awaiting us.
Sharing garden secrets is always good. Here is one from ‘The Side Yard Farm’ in Portland, Oregon:
“Fig leaves! One of my very favorite things to work with in the kitchen. You can do so much with these magical leaves and also fig wood as well. (In this photo,) l am getting the leaves ready for the dehydrator and I'm going to grind the dried leaves after and mix them with sugar to use in baking. The smell is something else, I love it. Coco-nutty, almondy, hints of leather and tobacco. I love using the leaves for making syrups, I add it to my baklava syrup and it's amazing. They make a delicious ice cream, cookies, cakes, muffins, pancakes and more. You can use them as a wrap for things like fish, use them in a meat brine and more. The wood is also magical. We dry the wood out for a year, cut into small rounds and use in the smoker to smoke fish.”
We spent two weeks in Italy this summer, spending most of it in Capitignano, Abruzzo, hometown of my maternal great grandmother, Domenica Fulvimari Alimonti. We were very impressed with the motorways out of Rome. There was mile upon mile of pink and white Oleanders lining the roads. Two hours later we approached L’Aquila, the capital city of Abruzzo and definitely a mountain town. We came across numerous Roman ruins dotted through out the hillsides. Capitignano is located on a hillside surrounded by forests and overlooking a small valley. The valley consists of numerous small farms separated by hedgerows. Many of these farms are now growing hay, some so small they only produce one large round bale. Some of the farmers drive their tractors from the farm to their residence on the hillside.
Capitignano’s climate is very similar to Kelowna. The temperatures matched that of Kelowna every day we were there, although due to their higher elevation, the gardens were a bit behind ours. The gardens have almost identical plants as we grow, including the bind weed in their lavender. Roses and trumpet vines line many of their railing fences. Geraniums in terra cotta pots are found at almost every house. New to us, we enjoyed their fresh Donut peaches. Ironically, at the same time I came across a Facebook posting about Donut peaches being grown in the Okanagan.
Capitignano (and adjoining Mopolino) is home to approximately 600 homes. One third of these are nicely fixed up after the earthquake, five years ago. The next third are shuttered up and lived in during the summer by families living in Rome and other nearby locales. The last third are in various degrees of abandonment or are being propped up to keep them stable awaiting rehabilitation. Most of he permanent residents have vegetable gardens, growing much the same crops as we do.
Agri-tourism is being encouraged. We spent some time with Giuseppe Commentucci who runs a Botanical Garden and operates a restaurant, serving mostly products he raises on his farm. A group he spearheads has revitalized Pastinaca, a mountain parsnip. They sold their first seeds this year. Also featured in the area are their Mountain Potato, a delicious yellow variety. Saffron is an Abruzzo speciality that they are very proud of. Visiting Giuseppe’s cantina at his restaurant was very interesting. It was filled with sacks of chickpeas and corn as well as vacuum sealed packages of beans and lentils. Hanging next to them were slabs of Guanciale (pork cheeks). Across the cellar were contrasting deep freezers and wine racks. Giuseppe certainly has his priorities… the placement of a cot in a small brook gives the perfect resting place.
As well as enjoying the gardens, meeting the towns people and many new relatives, I was able to spend some time in their church archives finding numerous family records going back to the 1500s… and finding one of my x13 great grandfathers. A very enjoyable trip.
The garlic has been harvested, dried and now stored in the dark with plenty of circulating air. With our very warm days of July, the tomatoes are ripening quite quickly. And cherries, blueberries, peaches and corn… what a bounty. Its a great time for canning and freezing to preserve that Okanagan sunshine.
Summer heat is also the perfect time to delve into exotic salads combining peppers, cucumbers and some new greens with some old world ones. Some greens that do well in late summer are: broccoli, cabbage, chard, kale, spinach, mustard greens, arugula, sorrel, bok choi, mescalin and cilantro.
Some Italian greens currently available from seed sources such as “Franchi Seeds” are Rocket Greens, Puntarelle spinach greens, Rapini and Erba Stella greens (Buckhorn Plantain).
Franchi seeds began in 1783 when Giovanni Franchi started selling seeds around the market squares of Parma from his horse-drawn cart. The company is still in the same family 229 years later, with Giampiero Franchi at the helm and modern facilities in Bergamo, near Milan. Franchi Sementi (Sementi is the Italian word for Seeds) is a family-owned business that is not affiliated with any other seed company. Franchi Sementi is more than just packaged vegetable seeds; it’s a story of tradition, pride, experience, quality, and excellence handed down over seven generations. Franchi seeds are available from numerous sources. My favourite place to read all about the available Franchi seeds is the Australian based “The Italian Gardener”
Radicchio, sometimes known as Italian chicory because of its common use in Italian cuisine, is a perennial cultivated form of leaf chicory (Cichorium intybus, Asteraceae). It is grown as a leaf vegetable and usually has colourful, white-veined red leaves that form a head. Radicchio has a bitter and spicy taste that mellows if it is grilled or roasted.
Modern cultivation of radicchio began in the fifteenth century in the Veneto region, but its origins go further back, probably to ancient Egypt. We find the first record in Naturalis Historia, where Pliny the Elder writes about its medical properties as a blood purifier and to ease insomnia.
Radicchio is a cool weather crop and, like the endives, is usually seeded in late July or August when the days are getting cooler.
Orapo (Chenopodium bonus-henricus) is a wild mountain spinach that grows mainly at high altitudes up to 2,000 meters and has been patiently harvested by hand for centuries. Orapo is becoming one of the treasured old world foods in the Abruzzo mountains where sheep grazing has been conducted for centuries. The harvesting of Orapo follows age old techniques and is described in the article “Orapo o spinacio di montagna” (link in the sources below).
“Before climbing, you look at the mountains from below, you observe the snow, the sky and the temperatures because it mustn't be cold yet and you have to climb before the heat arrives, when the white mantle of snow begins to retreat. Only then can you reach the pens, among the sheep pastures, where the soil is rich in nitrogen and nitrates.
The passages of the flocks fertilize the earth and give birth to the orape, the vegetable of the cold and this explains its German name dieiszichorie, i.e. ice chicory, although it is not related to chicory but some spinach.”
What Is Radicchio?
A Guide to Buying, Using, and Storing Radicchio
By Kyle Phillips Updated on 09/20/22
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
20 Vegetables You Can Plant in Late Summer August 29, 2020
About Franchi Seeds
The Italian Gardener
Orapo o spinacio di montagna
What a fantastic June garden we have had… bundles of rhubarb that were picked and shared among the neighbours, followed by strawberries and then raspberries and blueberries. But by far my favourite are the peas. I no longer grow rows and rows of peas, instead relying on local markets for any quantity. But I do grow a few plants that gives me two weeks of fresh peas to eat as I traverse my garden every morning. There is nothing quite like the fresh taste of peas right off the vine. Another early summer treat is adding nasturtium flowers to our salads.
Garlic Scape Pesto was again on my agenda for late June. This year I minced up the scapes, added nuts, cheese and olive oil to it and packed some into a jar for fresh use and the remainder into the freezer in 2 tablespoon size scoops. Drying the garlic scapes is another option. This is also a good time to pinch back the basilico and whip up a batch of fresh pesto sauce.
Tomatoes can also use vigilant pruning at this time of the year. Doing so can result in an earlier and more abundant crop.
Frittelli di Fiori di Zucchine are an early summer delicacy. Since the flowers are open in the morning, they are best plucked then, as they become harder to clean when they close up. The female zucchini flower only fruits into a zucchini, so some people pick the male flowers only. Stuffed with cheese and dipped into a batter made with flour, eggs, baking powder and some parmesan cheese and garlic, these fritelli may be pan or deep fried.
Garlic harvest arrives in July. Once garlic leaves begin to yellow its time to dig up the garlic and begin its curing process. Waiting for hard neck garlic to bend over is not recommended as the heads begins to loose its outer skin and storage time is therefor lessened.
Lettuce in the summer heat some times poses a problem. Growing lettuce in shadier regions of the garden is one solution. Other solutions include growing it in the shade of other plants (garlic) or under trellised cucumbers or other vines.
Ferns and white geraniums growing along the east side garden of our house gives us a cool and calm area in the garden. The combination of white geraniums and the cool lush ferns surrounded by a wood chip or mulched pathway not only solves the problem of what to do with a long narrow garden but also gives us a quiet retreat while we work at our potting bench.
Water Lillies in our garden provides us with another cool area. We have three ceramic pots plumbed from below, running water that is pumped from an old pond. By keeping the water flow very low and by choosing a miniature Lilly we are graciously rewarded by blooms all summer long.
Second year peppers and artichokes are doing well. In the fall of last year, instead of composting my peppers and artichoke plants, I dug them up, removed all the foliage, root pruned them and placed them in pots on the floor of my greenhouse. This spring I began watering them and watched their progress. I am pleased to report they have all made great progress and I now have the first artichoke buds and baseball sized peppers… both way ahead of this year’s seeded plants. Will I be able to repeat this for a third year as I do with my geranium plants?
June is a gorgeous time in the garden… the planting is finished, the weather is warm, and wow… the irises, peonies, poppies, mock orange and roses are in full bloom. Lettuce, kale, choi, basilico, garlic scapes and rhubarb give us the first taste of the year. Soon strawberries, peas and onions will join in. This is a great time to sit back and enjoy!
Today, we wanted to share an interesting little arboreal tidbit from Enrique Arayata at Russell Tree Experts:
“Today, I share with you a rare and interesting sight: the Double Tree of Casorzo. Between the towns of Casorzo and Grana, in Piemonte, a region in northwest Italy, there is a cherry tree growing healthily on top of a mulberry tree with branches spreading over 5 meters long. It is known as the Double Tree of Casorzo (Bialbero de Casorzo in Italian) or the Grana Double Tree.
As you may already know, it is not common by any means to see a tree on top of another tree, but somehow, someway, this cherry tree managed to find its home on top of this mulberry tree. It is unclear how exactly this double tree grew to be, but one popular theory is that a bird dropped off a cherry tree seed on top of the mulberry tree. The cherry tree seed then spread its roots down through the hollow trunk of the mulberry tree and found a connection to the soil where it can absorb nutrients. The relationship between the two trees does not appear to be parasitic or harmful to one another. It is fascinating to see that the mulberry and cherry trees are able to share water, sunlight, soil nutrients, and most importantly space without outcompeting one another and growing just fine.
Plants growing non-parasitically on top of other plants are not uncommon and are known as epiphytes. Common examples of epiphytes include some species of ferns, orchids, and bromeliads, which can attach themselves to trees or other plants and absorb some nutrients from rain and air along with any other nearby debris or soil they can access; all while not harming its host. What makes the Double Tree of Casorzo unique is that most epiphytes either are small in size or have a short lifespan due to lack of space and humus. However, as you can see in the photo within this article, this cherry tree is quite tall and healthy! “
Even with our unusually cold April that is delaying our normal planting schedule, this is looking like a fantastic May. I can finally get my hands back in the soil. Soil is considered to be antidepressant. The smell of mycobacterium vacii, a microorganism found in soil, compost and leaf mold, lights up neurotransmitters that release serotonin (a mood-lifting hormone). While the crocuses were the stars of the March garden and the hyacinths and primula dominated April, tulips are making their fantastic appearance in May and thankfully the deer that were visiting this winter have moved on. Lilacs will be next on the bloomers list in our garden. Suffering from our unusual fall and winter, our forsythia had a poor showing this spring. Also suffering some winter damage this year are our rockery flowers along the sidewalk: the rock cress, moss phlox and aubrieta.
Despite the cool weather, or perhaps because of the cool weather, the garlic, rhubarb, radishes, lettuce, kale and choi are doing quite well. In our garden these are all planted against a light coloured wall or covered with clear umbrellas allowing them to get a head start in our garden. All these will be available to consume in a week or so.
Sitting in the cold frames, our tomato plants are toughening up nicely awaiting their transplanting in early May. They will be followed by geraniums, squashes and zucchini cucumbers, and then lastly, peppers. I planted some asparagus crowns this year, hopefully to get a few fresh spears now and then, but mostly to get the lace-like fern foliage in a feature garden area. The crowns available this year are from Armstrong, the major asparagus producing area of the Okanagan. They were the largest and healthiest I have seen in many years, which prompted me to plant them this spring.
Confessions of a plant hog… I have a lot of difficulty throwing away any seedling or plant, weather it be a relatively new plant or an old one I am dividing. Instead, starting in June, I pot up any extras and hold them over until the next May when our Kelowna Garden Club has their annual plant sale at Guisichan Gardens, this year being held on Saturday May 6, 2023 at 9:00 am.
Confessions of a forager… following my ancestors penchant for foraging their food from the land around them, I must admit the dandelion salads consumed this year have been fantastic. Perhaps the cool spring has helped them stay tender for a longer period of time. My favourite way of consuming them is to mix the dandelions with some of my fresh lettuce from the greenhouse, drizzled with olive oil and a little salt. Served with garlic toast and a glass of wine, and I am in heaven.
Our feature plant of the month is the ‘pastinaca,’ Italian parsley root, often referred to as a parsnip. I recently received a Facebook post from Capitignano, Abruzzo, Italy announcing a new book “La pastinaca di Capitignano”. "The parsnip of Capitignano narrates the essence of the peasant civilization of our mountain. Its roots saturated and never betrayed the humble tables of families who had love for their land. " - this is how Giuseppe Commentucci, local gastronomic expert, describes what we can define without delay the most peculiar and precious typical product of Capitignano.
The edible part of pastinaca is the meaty root with a slightly sweet taste, which for a long time has been part of the "seven dishes" that are prepared in Capitignano on Christmas Eve night. In the village of Alta Valle Aterno ancient seeds are still cultivated and preserved, which make this ecotype one of the rarest and precious vegetables existing today.
Parsnips, as we know them, have been cultivated for their sweet roots since ancient times. The Romans frequently grew the vegetables. In fact, Emperor Tiberius adored parsnips and, every year, had them brought from France where the colder climate allowed the roots to develop a sweeter flavour. The British are particularly fond of parsnips. It was British colonists that introduced the vegetable into the New World in 1609.
Parsnips are native to Europe, but they have been introduced throughout the world, and because they are so hardy, they now grow wild having escaped from cultivated gardens in many areas. The parsnip requires a long growing season, but the distinctive sweet flavour of the root will only develop after a hard frost. The parsnip has become a favourite of cold climate gardeners. Because it is one of the hardiest vegetables, it can overwinter easily with careful mulching.
The Parsnip – A Little History and Some Growing Instructions
https://harvesting-history.com/the-parsnip/#:~:text=Parsnips are native to Europe,is a native of Europe.
"La Pastinaca di Capitignano - A vegetable of absolute excellence", By Maurizio DiFelice, 2016
The arrival of April has the garden responding with buds bursting, new growth and early blossoms … a rebirth of life. I am always amazed when I seen the first large rhubarb shoots making their way out of the ground. Once grown, and harvested, it will give us the first fresh “fruit” harvest for the year. More on rhubarb later…
Gardening chores, like pruning fruit trees, grapes, raspberries and the roses, that were not complete in March are on the top of the list for April. Onions and potatoes benefit from early April plantings. Greens such as lettuce, choi, spinach and kale are cold weather crops that can be seeded in April. Care needs to be taken with watering, as most tap water remains very cold at this time of year. Leaving a watering can or barrel sitting in the sun can be a good source for early watering.
The first blooms in the garden include primroses, crocuses and daffodils followed by hyacinths and tulips. The forsythia will give a large splash of yellow on a couple of weeks. In the greenhouse, sitting among my blooming geraniums, April is also the time for transplanting my peppers, tomatoes, basilico and artichokes from their seedling trays to larger pots. It will not be long before they are ready to make day visits outside or to be placed in a cold frame to gradually toughen them up for May planting in the garden.
Traditionally, rhubarb (rabarbaro) was not in the diet of most Italians. Rhubarb, (Rheum rhabarbarum), is a hardy perennial of the smartweed family (Polygonaceae) native to Asia and grown for its large edible leafstalks. The ancient Chinese used rhubarb as a medicinal herb over 5,000 years ago. The word rhubarb is likely to have derived in the 14th century from the Old French, rubarbe, which came from the Latin rheubarbarum and Greek rha barbaron, meaning 'foreign rhubarb'. The name rhaponticum, means 'rha from the region of the Black Sea or the river Volga, Rha being its ancient name.
By the early 18th century rhubarb was grown as vegetable crops in England and Scandinavia. It was brought to the Americas by settlers before 1800. Because rhubarb can be easily grown anywhere in Canada it became a main stay in most of our early settlers gardens. Early Italian settlers were no exception and they easily adapted to this new plant for pies, jams, wine and more.
As one chef in Italy commented: “Due to the fact you can’t buy rabarbaro (rhubarb) in any of the grocery shops or vegetable stalls we planted it a few years ago and it is thriving. I show it off to everyone who comes by our house.” Franchi seeds, available on line from “The Seeds of Italy” website: https://seedsofitaly.com/common-rhubarb/ have made rrhubarb available to many more parts of the world.
As we enter March my hands begin to itch… they want to get a hold of some seeds and get them into the ground… a new season begins. The earliest seeds needing my attention are onions and they are followed by peppers. Any new perennial flowers I may be trying out are also seeded in March. My main crop of basilico will not be seeded until April but I dis seed a few plants in February to replace last year’s plants which were beginning to look a little worn out. This week I will take those new seedlings and transplant them into individual pots. The bottom heat mats gave these seedlings a good start.
I will start to fertilize my geraniums, fuschia and potato vine cuttings this month but will try keeping them on the cool side to prevent lengthy growth. My salad boxes continue to do well. I will plant a few extra romaine lettuce plants so that they will be ready to transplant outside in early April. Later in March I will sow some spinach, choi and kale in the outside beds that benefit from heat reflection from the house. I like to keep these beds covered with a row crop cover that also traps in some extra heat.
Raking up and shredding leaves that have finally fallen from my magnolia and oak trees is now being undertaken. The finely shredded leaves will be used as a mulch on the more tender plants in the garden. I am actually enjoying the look and smell of shredded leaves amid the shrubs, vegetable and flowers.
Plant of the month: The onion
Onions are among the world’s oldest cultivated plants. They were probably known in India, China, and the Middle East before recorded history. Ancient Egyptians regarded the spherical bulb as a symbol of the universe, and the concentric spheres of the cosmos were also likened to an onion. Its name is probably derived from the Latin unus, meaning “one.” The Romans introduced the onion to Britain and, in the New World, Native Americans added a highly pungent wild onion (Allium canadense) to their stews. Curative powers have been attributed to onions throughout the centuries; they have been used in folk medicine for such varied ailments as colds, earaches, laryngitis, animal bites, burns, and warts.
There are many types and forms of onions: white, yellow, red, Spanish, shallot, pearl, spring, winter, globe, flat, pungent and sweet. They are staples of the Mediterranean diet. Scientifically known as allium cepa, onions are a bulb full of mineral salts and vitamins that, raw or cooked, produce unmistakable fragrances and flavours. There are a host of native Italian varieties that are essential ingredients in the most well-known dishes.
Every area of Italy has its own cultivar of onion boasting unique characteristics. The Acquaviva red onion (Puglia), The Alife onion (Caserta), The Banari onion (Sardinia), The flat red onion of Bassano (Bassano del Grappa), The Boretto onion (Rover Po), The Breme red onion (Pavia), The Cannara onion (Umbria), The Cavasso and Val Cosa onion (Friuli), The Chioggia white onion (Chioggia), The Cureggio and Fontaneto blond onion (Novara Plain), The Ligurian Egyptian onion (Liguria), The copper onion of Milan (Milan), The Montoro onion (Salerno and Avellino), The Sermide onion (Po River), The Suasa onion (Marche), The Tropea red onion (Vibo Valentina), The Vatolla onion (Perdifumo) and The Vernina onion of Florence are just some of the unique italian onions.
Given the Italian affinity for onions, it is no wonder early Kelowna growers like Giovanni Casorso and my great grandfather, Luigi Rampone, took to growing acres of onions. They were known as the Onion Kings of the Okanagan Mission.
Onion plant, The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica
Feb 6, 2023: https://www.britannica.com/plant/Italian-onion
The Italian onions so delicious you can eat them raw
Silvia Marchetti, CNN October 31, 2022
A February garden in Kelowna can see the first primula blooms popping up one moment, and covered with snow the next. A clear spot on the edge of a pathway will have crocus shoots giving a promise of spring only to be hit by a cold snap and stopped in their tracks. One moment we have hopes for spring, and then we are shaken to a cold reality. That is Febbraio in the Okanagan Valley.
Thank goodness for inside plant rooms and greenhouses. Here, I can sit with my morning tea and crossword puzzle listening to the sounds of the birds at our feeder and the gentle sound of my waterfall. During the winter, I keep the temperature quite low to avoid the plants becoming overgrown. My old stock geraniums are beginning to bloom, the potato vines are showing many new shoots and last year’s potted up pepper plants are showing their first blooms. February is also the time I sort through all my stored garlic. I take all the smaller and softer heads, clean them, throw them in the food processor and pack the shredded garlic in jars filled with olive oil. Stored in the fridge, they make easy work in food preparation.
It is a little early to start most seeds for next spring’s planting outside. But, on my heat mat, I usually start a few new plants of basilico to supplemant last year’s potted ones which are beginning to look a little ragged.
In my cold room, my brugmansia and fig trees have been kept very dry and have finally shed all their leaves. I will start watering them later this month. Brugmansia cuttings were rooted in the greenhouse and are beginning to show promise.
Last year was the first year in quite a while that I grew artichokes. They grew quite quickly but would have benefitted from a full day sun exposure, instead of the 6 hour sun location where they were located. Last fall I had cut them right to the ground, potted them, and put them in my cold room. Even in the cold room they have resprouted and are now over a foot high.
Artichokes are considered the King of Vegetables in the Roman cuisine. They (carciofi) are relatives of the thistle, which isn’t surprising when you consider their appearance. The artichoke is native to North Africa and southern Europe and has been cultivated in Italy since early Roman times. Carciofi grow in fields all across central and southern Italy in fields called carciofaie, and folks plant them is bunches as part of their landscaping, or as hedges that lead to their homes. Very tender young artichokes are often eaten raw in salads, or preserved in oil, while larger artichokes are most often sauteed, stuffed, fried, or breaded. Artichoke production in Italy has a long history. Italy is the world's largest producer of artichokes. With Spain and France, the three countries produce more than 80% of the world's artichokes.
There are two theories as to its origin: artichokes may have derived from the cardoon or thistle through a cross-fertilization process, while others attribute it to the work of Italian horticulturists. The first record of artichoke cultivation in Italy was during the fifteenth century in Naples, where it was considered a new food species. In 1466, Filippo Strozzi brought the first artichoke to Florence. By 1473, it had arrived in Venice. In 1915, 64,000 tons were produced. Italy produces dozens of varieties.
The Mysteries of the Artichoke Unveiled, in Italian Food Forever
Deborah Mele October 26, 2011
Artichoke production in Italy in Wikipedia
Discovering Italian Cusine: Artichokes, the Roman Delicacy
By Arte Lusso Team, December 8, 2019
This year the Italian Gardener will look at gardening month by month. Let’s start with January. The peaceful month, curled up by a fire with a seed catalog dreaming about all the new varieties of vegetables and flowers available before sorting through the bags, boxes, jars and margarine tubs filed with seeds saved from zia Rosa, cuigini Luigi or paisan Giuseppe. Questions that keep popping up are: Where did I put those San Marzano tomato seeds? Did cousin Emma’s butternut squash dry properly? Did we save enough basilico seed so I can start some now and again this summer?
Once in my greenhouse or plant room I am in another one of my winter comfort zones. I sit by a small trickling fountain, the room filled with sunshine or brightly lit by grow lamps, sip tea and solve the daily crossword puzzle. I check my winter stored geraniums, snip a few stray leaves or blooms and check their moisture levels. I try to keep their growth in check by keeping the temperatures on the cool side (50 F, 10 C) and the soil quite dry watering from the bottom to keep fungus gnats at a minimum. Last year’s plants will be replanted in all my ceramic pots next spring while the new cuttings will be sold at our garden club’s spring sale. Our fuchsia plants are treated similarly and are held over in the darker corners of the greenhouse or plant room.
I check my lettuce and micro green plantings and start a new batch every couple of weeks. This keeps me a good supply for a daily fresh salad. If no fresh greens are available I check my pantry for a jar of preserved melanzane or pepperoni. Lettuce, spinach, and choi all like the cool temperatures. Micro greens are quickly grown with the help of a heating mat under the seed trays.
This year I am trying my first hold over of last summer’s pimento pepper plants. In the fall I drastically cut back all the foliage, dug up plants and washed and root pruned them. I potted them in one gallon pots and placed them under my green house lower shelf with very little water. It wasn’t long before they began to send out new leaves. Occasionally a flower appears, which I try to remove so the plant is forced to continue growing. For several years, I have been successfully using this procedure with my sweet potato vines. The added bonus with yams is that I get to eat the yams that I dug up with the roots, before restarting the roots growing.
Continued enjoyment is found outside where I keep paths and benches cleared of snow in the front, side and back gardens. Ceramic planters are filled with fir, spruce, pine and cedar trimmings draped with small twinkly lights. Each planter has a central porcupine or hedgehog figurine hiding in the foliage. In the snow they are a pleasure to walk through or see from the house. The woody stems of the evergreens gives the soil some expansion room so the planters are somewhat protected from frost damage. Our garden gives us great pleasure in all seasons. This year, our return to our Kelowna winter garden, after our trying and eventful Christmas break, will be looked at with even more thankful eyes.
Life-long Gardener Don Rampone shares his tips and advice for gardening