Sunday, November 10, 2013

To Everything There Is A Season

One of my constant whines – I can only imagine the surprise it must be for many of my friends to think I would actually whine about something – when I first returned from Italy had to do with food. It just wasn’t the same in Canada. Things weren’t fresh picked – they had been shipped in unripened and allowed (or forced chemically) to ripen in the store. There was not flavor! No great variety! And many of the vegetables and fruits were available – if in perhaps a state of tastelessness – year round. There was no seasonality!

Now given the climate in Ottawa the idea of fresh picked does have its seasonal limitations – the probability of anything growing is low and the improbability of anyone harvesting at -32c are reasonably high. But come on now variety? Would that be so hard to do?

Though things are looking up for varieties – particularly heirloom vegetables – but this photo taken at a flower shop in Sorrento will give you an indication of the variety of tomatoes that are grown in Italy.

You say tomato - I say TOMATOES! Eleven!  Count them - eleven types of tomatoes.  You name the occasion and you've got a red (yellow or green) ball of goodness that was made just for Nona's secret recipe.

Eleven – count them eleven different seed packets and none of them are “heirloom” – just your average Italian garden variety. Some for sauce, some for salad, some for roasting (god is there anything closer to heaven than roasted tomatoes?), others for stuffing, yet another for matching with a good Mozzarella di Buffala. I recall buying tomatoes from our local greengrocer (who by the way is still there and greeted us with big smiles and the hope that we were back to stay) and the first question was always: what are you using them for?

And of course what was available depended on the time of year – for everything. The watermelons were sweet and juicy in August but forget finding any on the market in September, artichokes were the last weeks of March and the first week of April, figs (the sweet, pale green skinned Italian variety) in June and July and this time of year: late October early November it’s kaki season!

A type of persimmon, but unlike any from North America I've every tasted, the kaki has a custardy texture with just a touch of astringency.  And apparently you can use it as an instrument to foretell the weather for the coming season.
Sidd joined me at Peter and Joe’s in savouring the joy of a chilled kaki ready to burst its orange skin and deliver creamy, custardy, astringent but sweet goodness.
I’m not sure if they remember my child-like (okay perhaps childish is a better adjective) joy when kaki season arrived but it was the perfect finish to a splendid meal with cherished friends in a place I love.

November 10 - 1871:Henry Morton Stanley locates missing explorer and missionary, Dr. David Livingstone in Ujiji, near Lake Tanganyika, famously greeting him with the words, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?"


Debra She Who Seeks said...

I'm trying to think of anything in Canada that has such a range of varieties.


Ur-spo said...

I so miss growing tomatoes which were various in their types.