Italy, like France, Spain and many Mediterranean countries are very big on street markets. They are part of their culture and often there is one day of the week, usually the morning, where the high street is blocked to the traffic to allow the weekly market to take place.
In my home town market day falls on a Tuesday. My mum, who is now retired, seems to get very excited on Tuesday mornings. She pops a nice dress on, makes her hair look nice, a good smear of lippy and out she goes to spend her morning with her friends. It’s her “me” time, her time to be social.
The shopping is really just an excuse; her morning is largely spent from one coffee bar to the next with a few “rounds” of coffees.. one, two or even 3! Too many for me, I could not cope with so much caffeine in one go! Even though I often would die for an extra espresso, I think it would send my heart racing like a speeding car!
But let’s forget about coffees. I love the beauty of all the different types of fruit and veg you can find. These photos were taken in late October, so that’s what is in season during the autumn.
Olives look very fresh as they have just been harvested.
Artichokes are available twice a year; one season runs during late spring/summer and the other in late autumn-winter.
I love them stuffed with parsley, garlic and breadcrumbs and cooked in a pan; I like sucking leaf by leaf until I reach their gorgeous tender heart which feels like a reward, (the “sweetie”) after cherishing every single leaf! You can see how to clean artichokes in one of my previous posts here.
For convenience you can buy just the artichoke hearts. At street markets and often even in supermarkets you will find them floating in lemony water to avoid them oxidating which makes them turn black.
And of course from late October to April you will find mandarins, clementines and oranges. Whereas mandarins have seeds, clementines are a slightly smaller variety, seedless, easy peelers and usually very sweet. Something needs to be said about oranges. The ones you find in supermarkets often come from far away and to sustain a long journey and preserve them well they have all been coated with different types of fungicide chemicals which are considered safe simply because we do not eat orange peel.
This means you need to be careful if you want to use the zest of oranges and lemons for baking or add it to your cooking. Buy unwaxed or organic or you will end up eating all those nasty chemicals!
Grapefruits are also very popular. I grew up having grapefruit juice for breakfast often mixed with fresh orange juice.
Prickly pears (“Fichi d’India”), originally from Mexico, grow well in the south of Italy where the climate is very hot and dry. They are covered in spines but they have a very soft and sweet pulp. You need to know how to peel them although if you buy them in supermarkets they often have their prickly thorns removed.
Because they grow very easily and they do not need chemical intervention or manipulation they really are a natural and organic fruit packed with vitamins, antiviral, diuretic and detoxing properties. I would consider them a superfood!
Of course in autumn you can never miss chestnuts of which Italy is a large producer. They are often cooked at street festivals and market places.
Italians love to roast them on a stove.
And of course… there is always going to be plenty of nice fresh food and panini if you are hungry or want to stop for lunch!