Translated, Bellissimo means very beautiful. It is the perfect way to describe a garden that incorporates Italian vegetables. Beautiful. Colorful. Delicious!
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When we think of ‘Italian’ vegetables and herbs, we immediately think of tomatoes and basil. But there are so many more! In truth, most of the vegetables you can grow in Italy also grow well here, and are quite common.
However, there are many that were actually developed in Italy first. The herbs and vegetables listed here are ordered from a company called Seeds from Italy. They are the United States distributor for Franchi Seeds, a family-owned company based in Italy.
The seed packet are large, and filled with more seeds than you can use in one year. But that is what freezers are for. I often save the left over seeds to grow the next year. This means there is more for me to spend on different varieties this year!
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I am NOT, however, an affiliate for Seeds from Italy, nor do I receive compensation for this post. They are a small family-owned business that is not in a position to offer an affiliate program. However, from the first time I ordered from them, I have been a believer in their products.
Here are some of the products they offer. Quite a few I have grown in my garden – others are either being ordered this year or are on my wish list!
(Note: I have referenced the 2020 Seeds from Italy catalog so many times in this post! Instead of giving credit for every single one, I am stating it here. If you see a passage in quotes, it either is a direct quote, or altered only slightly, and too close to not give credit!)
Tomatoes – the most familiar of Italian Vegetables
This is an heirloom beefsteak from Rome. It produces tomatoes approximately 6 to 7 oz., which ‘few seeds and tasty, thick flesh’. A Pantano checks off everything on the list of things I want from my tomatoes.
Beefsteak tomatoes are always one of the first choices for my garden. We love to eat them on sandwiches, burgers, or by themselves as a ‘side salad’ for our summer meals. They are also considered lunch when I can’t take a break from the garden. I just reach for a ripe one, brush it off a bit, and let the juices flow!
(Personally, I believe this is the absolute best way to eat a tomato. The warmth from the sun’s kisses just seems to add that little extra flavor!
San Marzano Redorta
Even though they can be, not all tomatoes are eaten straight from the vine. Some of them we want to save to make our salsas, sauces and bruschetta. For these type of recipes, the best tomato is a paste type.
San Marzanos certainly fit the bill. Firm flesh, excellent flavor, and prolific producers. The Redorta is ‘considerably larger than San Marzano’, so this just means you get more sauce from your harvest!
You have already heard me sing the praises of this cherry-type tomato. And I am going to do it again. It is the best cherry available. They are great for fresh eating, but also the perfect cherry for oven roasting or dehydrating.
For one of the best recipes that calls for San Marzanos tomatoes, get a copy of Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I tried these Antipasto Tomatoes when I read her book. They have become a favorite, and will be a staple in our pantry.
When we think of ‘greens’ in our gardens, that is the color that comes to mind. Yes, a few of them come in beautiful shades of red. A few have red or pink polka dots. But solid pink? Yes. You can now add a beautiful pink to your garden with Pink Radicchio.
According to the catalog, this color is obtained in cooler weather, which makes it perfect for your fall garden. ‘Mild, almost sweet flavor with a texture like butter lettuce’, it apparently hold up well in the refrigerator. Definitely on my list to order!
Broccoli & Cima di Rapa – An Unusual Italian Vegetable
When we think ‘Italian vegetables’, probably the last thing we consider is Broccoli. However, It is a favorite with Italian gardeners. There is also a ‘leaf’ broccoli that is very popular with Italian gardeners. Called Cavolo Broccolo Spigariello, it is a renowned vegetable in Italy. Traditionally, this green is used on pizza, and in pasta dishes.
Cima di Rapa is also a popular green. It is similar to a turnip plant, but without the turnip, although some do produce a small bulb. The best place to get detailed information on these two plants is straight from the Seeds from Italy website. This page gives you a great description, harvest & storage information, as well as ways to cook it.
Looking for something delicious, fun and interesting to grow as greens this year? These are two you just may want to research and try.
Quadrato d’ Asti Rosso
Every garden needs peppers, and these Italian vegetables just add icing on the cake. This is a bell type pepper that I grew last year. It’s name translates ‘Square Red from Asti’. Asti is a township in the northwest region of Piemonte, Italy known for its peppers.
Ours grew large and were very productive. Although we primarily use our bell peppers for cooking and fresh eating, the Pepper Giallo d’Asti is also good for roasting. Just ‘remove the skins and serve as an appetizer’!
This year, I am planning on ordering the Giallo d’Asti, which is a yellow bell, also from the Piemonte region. If it’s red sister is delicious, this one with a ‘sweet taste’ is bound to be as well.
Peperoncino is a generic reference to hot peppers. They range from mild (Peperoncino Peppino) to sweet (Dolce di Bergamo), all the way up to ‘Devil’s Kiss’ (Peperoncino Piccante Calabrese).
I am curious about the Dolce di Bergamo, which translates to ‘Cigarette of Bergamo’, but I think I am going to forego anything even closely related to ‘Devil’s Kiss’ or ‘Satan’s Kiss’. I have enough problems with that one. Why would I want to add him to my garden?
The herb most often considered Italian is definitely basil. Flavors range from Classico, Napoletano and Dark Opal, to Lettuce Leaf, Cinnamon and Lemon.
The one entry that sparks my interest is the Mixed Basil, said to have a mix of ’12 types of basil, including all those on this page’. ‘This page holds seven varieties. Depending on the individual flavors of each, I may be seeing a Mixed Basil Pesto in my future.
Whether flat leaf or extra curly, parsley is one of the easiest herbs to grow. It is definitely one of our most used herb. Seeds from Italy offers a Gigante di Napoli, which is a ‘very large flat-leaf variety from Naples with incredible flavor.
Here’s a winner in my book – The 12 gram packet for $3.50 has about 5,000 seeds in it. Now THAT is some serious parsley growing for any herb garden!
For your curly-leaf parsley, you may want to try the Parsley Nano Ricciuto. This one is said to be a good plant for growing indoors in a container. It does mention that it is slow to germinate, but once it does, you will have fresh parsley all year round.
Although I have never grown fennel, it is a serious consideration. Fennell is excellent to add to sauces, but we also use it when we make our own sausage. Although the website lists 9 varieties, the seeds they offer in the catalog are called ‘Wild Fennel’, and get 30-40 inches tall. I’m intrigued, as it also says it is useful in bouquets. Talk about a ‘fresh’ flower arrangement!
This is touted as ‘real Italian oregano’. It has ‘large, highly flavored leaves’. Considering it is a staple in my herb bed, I am going to try this variety, instead of the ones I usually grow. If it adds more flavor to my sauces, it will be well worth the price!
From pink to green to yellow to red, Italian vegetables and herbs will certainly live up to the word ‘Bellissimo’! If you are ready for a bit of a change in your garden, consider growing the Italian counterparts of your regular fare.
This post only contains the tip of the iceberg of Italian vegetables, though. Visit their website and find everything else, including carrots, beans, squash and so much more. Every single choice makes me want to up my order.
Are you ready to order your seeds? If so, please consider this wonderful family-owned company. And if you do place an order with Seeds from Italy, just tell them The Farm wife sent you. I don’t get a commission or any other compensation. I just want them to know how much I love their company, and want to see them remain in business for many years to come.
(Primarily because my seed want list is so long, I’m going to need several more years before I order it all!)