Exotic Fruits of Italy

Speaking of markets, and as I am currently writing a book about fruit, here are some “exotic” fruits now grown locally in Italy. Italy has some famous citrus types (read about popular fruit types here or here), including one which was introduced to this area 23 centuries ago (long before the formation of Italy as a country).

Annona (custard apple): A quick google search brought me to the annona, a cherimoya or custard apple, that is now being grown in Calabria, a southern region in Italy.

Bergamotto (bergamot): I mention this because people may not know that this is the citrus that is used in Earl Grey Tea. Ninety percent of the world’s bergamot oil is produced in Italy. As far back as 1709, the bergamot has been pressed to extract the essential oils, for use in perfume, most famously Chanel No. 5.

Diamante citron in Italian or esrog from Calabria (etrog). This citrus is essential in the Jewish sukkot ceremony and has been grown in Italy since the the third century BCE (before current era).

Cacchi or lotta (persimmon or sharon fruits): Introduced to Italy in the early 20th century, these are grown in Campania.

Orange persimmons behind red pomengranates.

Ficodindia dell’Etna (prickly pear): the fruit of the cactus. The black pits inside are very hard and peeling this fruit can hurt your hands.

Kiwi: This brings to mind that the kiwi is now grown in Italy. Italy is the second or third largest exporter of kiwis. I see kiwis at the market all the time in Rome. They grow them right outside Rome so they are even at my zero kilometer market that I mentioned last week.

Melograno (pomegranate): Supposedly Persephone ate six pomegranate seeds when she was in the underworld. Her mother, Demeter, the earth, made a deal with the god of the underworld to let her go. But because she had eaten six seeds, she could only be above ground for six months of the year, and that is why we have the six months of spring and summer. Pomegranate seeds are like jewels and work well in salads and on meats, but the juice is what most people like. To remove the seeds, one can whack the cut pomegranate with a wooden spoon and the seeds come rat tat tatting out like shots.

Cotogna (quince): The cutest name for a fruit that is so sour. It is better as a jelly or jam to be eaten with cheese. In Latin America, this is often paired with fresh cheese and the fresh milky mildness of the cheese goes well with the brown gummy bear texture of the cooked quince.

Finally, a native exotic.

Nespola (medlar): This is exotic but native to Italy. These strange dried looking fruits are winter fruits that are only ready to be eaten when they are soft and wrinkly. Then you peel them and eat the mushy brown interior. The taste is sort of like a fruit paste or dried figs. Just not as tasty.

The medlars are above the chestnuts. These are not ready to be eaten as they are not wrinkly.

And finally, if you want to read about the “equatorial” fruit growing now happening in Italy, read this article from Euronews.

Best Vineyard Food – New Zealand

Eggplant/aubergine salad. So much better than it sounds.
Eggplant/aubergine salad. So much better than it sounds.

We were whizzing past the views of paradise on Waiheke Island off Auckland’s coast. The bus driver/guide had suggested places in his well rehearsed voice but after all the other tourists got off at the beachfront restaurant, I asked him again. Where would you eat? He mentioned a vineyard that had won some award last year. He said it was a bit of a walk at almost a kilometer.

The view from our table... vineyard to ocean...
The view from our table… vineyard to ocean…

We got lost. We asked a local for directions. He heartily endorsed Casita Miro. When we found it, we went in through the kitchen. Like everything else in New Zealand, it was both casual, elegant, and ridiculously fresh. The restaurant bakes all their own bread and their food is tapas style. They make good coffee as well so you can enjoy a latte as well (in New Zealand, they have another drink called a “flat white” which is a latte with no foam hence flat. The best one we had was made by an Italian guy down at the harbor in Auckland).

Tagine style lamb shank.
Tagine style lamb shank.

Casita Miro is only open for lunch so plan for it. Enjoy some of the vineyard’s wines… make this a destination.

Deep-fried mozzarella.
Deep-fried mozzarella.

The large windows of the restaurant.
The large windows of the restaurant.

Waitakere Day Tour from Auckland, New Zealand

Heartbreaking vista to eternity in New Zealand.

Yes, this is a shameless promotion of a day out with Shane of Waitakere Day Tours. Read this great review on TripAdvisor here. For $150 (New Zealand dollars), you get a great day out.

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The group will never been more than seven and you get a healthy home cooked picnic lunch. You will see so much on this day out that I cannot explain it all. Just know that if you don’t have time to go to South Island, then this tour will be great value.

Healthy slaw salads and egg pie picnic.

Silky cool soft water running through a kingdom where we roamed.

My favorite part of the day is hard to pick but it was probably when Shane said, “you can leave your shoes in the van.” This was followed by a walk on the silky cool river bed. Shane was so personable that you will want him to be your friend. And not just because he can introduce you to his ancestor trees… New Zealand is a paradise on the bottom of the world. The tourism machine of this land of Lord of the Rings, Narnia, etc. is well oiled but Shane’s family run business, eco-friendly brochure, Maori cultural insight, and price make him the ultimate tour guide. I highly recommend taking six friends and having a fantastic day out. Did I mention that the time spent in the van is never more than 45 minutes? And, take comfortable shoes for the rain forest walk.

Tell Shane that I said hi.

Trees nurtured by family placentas makes talking to ancestors easy.