12 Seasons of Roman Vegetables and Fruit

Romans truly eat by season. They get excited by what is only available at certain times of the year. Of course, all year, there are imported vegetables and fruit in Rome, but the Romans still find joy in the seasonality of fresh vegetables. And, it seems like chicory is always in season…

Three types of asparagus with the expensive wild version in the front.

Cicoria (chi-CORE-E-ah) or chicory is “Italian dandelion” and is a bitter green leafy vegetable that looks a bit like spinach. If you live in the U.S. and want to plant some for your self, this farm sells the seeds.

January: puntarelle (puhn-tah-R-ALE-eh), or cicoria di catalogna or cicoria asparago (although no one in Rome uses these names) is in the chicory family but looks more like a thick stemmed dandelion. The Romans eat the white stems, cut to curl up, in a salad with an anchovy garlic dressing — like a zero-carb caesar salad. No cheese. In other parts of Italy, puntarelle are cooked. In Rome, only the trimmings are cooked as part of a general vegetable stew. But, the white inner stems are the treasure.

The first stage of the preparation of puntarelle.
Puntarelle ready for dressing.

March: agretti, asparagi selvatici (wild asparagus), fava beans, and artichokes. Wild asparagus are slimmer and have a stronger taste. Agretti (Salsola Soda, opposite-leaved saltwort, opposite leaf Russian thistle, Roscano, or barilla plant) is almost unknown in the English speaking world, although recently becoming a bit of a thing with chefs.

Agretti
Peas and fava beans are both eaten fresh and raw when young. Fava beans are eaten with pecorino cheese.

April: Strawberries, agretti (monk’s beard), peas, beans, and small artichokes.

May: Peas, beans, spring onions, garlic chives, etc.

June: Apricots, peaches, green beans, potatoes, etc.

July: Melons, peaches, plums, nectarines, pears, lettuce, etc.

August: This was hard to figure out as most of the markets close in August… but at the back of the Trionfale market, there are still some zero kilometer farmers who sell their produce. So it’s all about peaches, cucumbers, pears, walnuts, water melons, cantaloup melons (called so because they were grown in Cantalupo just outside Rome), lettuce, grapes, nectarines, plums, and apples.

Apples

September: Pears, apples, figs, melons, lettuce, broccoli tops, pumpkins, pumpkin greens, plums, peppers, chiles, peaches, and grapes.

Pumpkin greens

October: pumpkin, potatoes, gourds, squash, nuts, cabbage, lettuce, and peppers.

November: potatoes, clementines, and nespole/medlars.

Medlars which one eats when they are brown and toffee like.

December: puntarelle, artichokes, and clementines.

clementines

Every restaurant will have “seasonal vegetable” on the menu and it will always be cicoria/chicory greens. Very healthy. One of the nice things about living in Rome is that it is possible to eat pesticide free food and in a perpetual “farmer’s market” all year round. I have to admit that I’m excited for artichoke season after not having artichokes for six months.

The Weather in Lima

To those contemplating moving to to Miraflores in Lima, think about the sun. During the winter, May-September, the sun doesn’t come out. At all. There are no shadows in the omnipresent gloom of winter. Hard to believe but true. During the winter, in the afternoon between 5-7 pm, a cold damp wind will blow up and it will feel noticeably colder. This is when the Limenos eat “lonche” a “lunch” that is akin to British afternoon tea of a hot drink and a sandwich. Also during the winter in Lima, the smell from the fish meal processing plants often pervades the city (apparently many Limenos who live abroad relish that familiar smell when they visit).

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But, in the summer, the weather can be glorious. That said, in the summer, the weather depends on where you live. If you live inland (even five blocks can make a difference) in San Borja, or Surco or La Molina, there will be sun, and often quite hot burning sun. But, if you live within blocks of the ocean in Miraflores, prepare for bouts of fog. Yes, even during the summer. I’m told, that for health reasons many people choose not to live on the coast because of the humidity in the air.

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Another thing about the weather in Lima — it never rains. Ever (a few piddly drops is not rain in my books). Lima is a desert city on a coast. No rain storms although there is usually a nice wind blowing on the coast.

The temperature in Lima stays fairly even. 70-80 in the summer. In the winter, the temperature can drop to 55-60 degrees. The locals tell me that because they are not accustomed to extreme temperatures (snow and 100 degrees), they are more sensitive to the weather. In the winter, one sees Limenos to wear puffy winter jackets and gloves.

I’ll be the person wearing sandals all year.