Fruit and Vegetables
The market gardens of Abruzzi offer the market some unquestionable treasures. To have an idea of this, it is enough to go the market in Sulmona in July when the stalls are brimming with the characteristic plaits of the famous red garlic which, only here, grows so luxuriant, flavoursome and abundant. Or else in the area of Santo Stefano di Sessanio, where lentils of superb quality grow, fine enough to compete with the ones from Castelluccio in Umbria. Then there is the richness offered by the reclaimed plains of the Fucino, by the hills around Chieti. Everywhere, if there are not vineyards and olive groves, then there are vegetable gardens and orchards, the ones facing the Adriatic coast being more prized since they breath in the sea breeze. A mention should be made about the fruit: next to a significant production of cherries, peaches, pears and apples, there is an important production of quality table grapes such as "regina di Ortona", "cardinal" and "Italia".
RED GARLIC FROM SULMONA
This is a highly prized quality of garlic which is cultivated in the hillsides around the towns of Torre di Nolfi and Campo di Fano, a few kilometres from Sulmona. It is a very unique garlic which cannot be compared to the other two types, red and white, usually cultivated in Italy. The external skin is, in fact, white, but the internal skin that encloses the individual cloves is reddish purple. It is planted in November and harvested in July. That it is a special product is attested to by the fact that the land, after having been used to cultivate this type of garlic, needs four or five years of rest before it can be used again. This is on the condition that, in the intervening seasons, wheat, barley or oats and not, for example, medicinal herbs, broad beans, onions or leeks, have been cultivated there. It is obviously a plant that has precise agricultural needs.
In the areas where the red garlic from Sulmona grows, in the middle of the summer, there is even a festival in its honour, with stalls displaying plaits and garlands of it, while the restaurants prepare dishes in which garlic is the protagonist ingredient.
LENTILS FROM SANTO STEFANO
Santo Stefano di Sessanio is a small village in the province of Aquila. It is worthy of note and a visit for having preserved medieval structures as well as the mullioned windows and open galleries of the sixteenth century, when it passed from the hands of the Medicis of Florence (whose coat of arms is still visible on the entryway to the main piazza)
For connoisseurs, Santo Stefano di Sessanio is noteworthy as the place where the best lentils in Abruzzi are produced. They are small and black, have a higher iron content than lentils produced in other places and, a small but also important detail, have an extremely short cooking time..
Cooked in a sauce as a side dish to accompany various main dishes, the lentils from Santo Stefano become the centrepiece of a special kind of soup made in Aquila and which is simply prepared: the lentils, having been soaked overnight, are cooked in boiling water with oil and a clove of garlic until the mixture becomes a soup which is then poured into dishes on top of slices of bread which have been toasted in the oven or fried in oil.
VEGETABLES FROM THE FUCINO AND THE TEATINO AREAS
The repertory of the products of the land for which the region is proud is truly a long one.
During a trip around the area, one should not forget the vegetable productions of distinction of the Fucino area, above all the carrots, then the fennel, the potatoes, the radicchio produced in the area of marshland which was reclaimed by the Princes of Torlonia. Raiano, close to Sulmona, and Giuliano Teatino, near Chieti, are famous for their cherries; Cupello, near Vasto, for its artichokes, while in the area between Ortona a Mare and Tollo, a superb dessert grape is produced which is exported all over Europe.