When we think about Italy, it is impossible to overlook its exceptional food. From its northernmost alpine peaks to its agrarian hillsides in the Po River basin and volcanic islands so far south they’re closer to Africa than they are to Rome, Italy’s varied topography is responsible for the country’s famously regional cuisine. With vastly different climatic conditions, the flora and fauna that thrive throughout Italy have been intrinsically linked to tradition for centuries. Signaling the arrival of summer, June beckons forth the start of the most bountiful growing season throughout Italy. From north to south, we're taking a look at the best fruits and vegetables to enjoy this time of year, and how to savor them like the Italians do.
Earthy, meaty and mildly sweet, eggplant is a staple in Southern Italian cooking. First introduced in Sicily by the Arabs in the 9th century, eggplant adapted to the Mediterranean basin. Today, if you’re traveling through lush and verdant Sicily in June, you’ll be spoiled with fresh caponata with crusty bread that will change how you think about eggplant forever. Other excellent ways to enjoy eggplant during its harvest season are eggplant involtini and the traditional Sicilian Pasta alla Norma.
Out of their oblong green pods, papery orange petals stretch into a star-like formation, producing the stunning zucchini blossoms beloved by chefs and eaters alike. Stuffed with whipped ricotta and fried to perfection, or simply pan-fried until golden and crispy, these delicate flowers adorn menus and tables across Italy throughout the month of June. If you’ve planted zucchini this summer, do not hesitate to pluck the beautiful blossoms for your next meal.
Grown in Sicily since the Middle Ages, watermelon is a favorite throughout the summer on the southern Italian island. Starting in June, the fresh pink fruit adorns farm stands and markets. While some simply buy a precut wedge to consume on site, others bring the summery favorite home to freeze into a refreshing granita or make into an elegant gelo di melone.
When you bite into a fresh peach, the soft sweet flesh hits you with reminiscences of childhood. It takes another bite or two before you notice the sticky juices collecting in the crease of your neck, which you wipe away nonchalantly. One of Italy’s largest peach growing regions, Emilia-Romagna is known to produce large peaches that are carefully tended through Integrated Farming methods. As a result, they are the only peaches to be given European Protected Geographical Indication (IGP) . Sliced into a chilled wine or folded into a fresh salad with rich burrata cheese and salty prosciutto, bring the sweet flavor of Italian summer into any dish.
There’s no shortage of fresh produce to enjoy while visiting Italy in June, or the rest of the summer for that matter. If you’re longing for a taste of Italian summer cuisine, the key is fresh produce. After that, a simple recipe to let the ingredients shine will bring the whole meal home. Mangiamo.