Italian Kitchen Garden

Are you tired of searching for fresh, ripe produce for your Italian recipes with very little success? Or, are the vegetables you do find overpriced, or not as fresh as you’d like? If so, why not consider starting your own Italian garden? As spring rolls around, the seed catalogues begin to arrive in our mailboxes in quantity, and it’s a great time to take a look and check out what is available. If you do browse through these catalogues, you’ll be amazed at the great variety of Italian seeds for sale, some even imported direct from Italy.

It may still be a little early for some to be thinking of vegetable gardening, but remember if you hope to grow vegetables from seeds, some need to be cultivated indoors for a few weeks before being transplanted outside. Now is a good time to plan your garden and purchase your seeds in anticipation of planting your garden later on this spring. Here are a few online sites for many of my favorite seed companies, with brief descriptions of the type of Italian seeds available:

Seeds from Italy
This company is the U.S. mail order distributor for Franchi Sementi spa of Bergamo, Italy, Italian seedsmen since 1783. You can find seeds for any of your favorite Italian vegetables as well as three regional seed collections including one for Tuscany, Rome, and Venice. I buy my beans from this company as they have a huge selection that even includes seeds forfava beans and chick peas. They also sell a large selections of professional garden tools.

Italian Seeds & Tool Company
This company is the North American distributor for Bavicchi garden seeds & supplies. Founded in 1896, Bavicchi Spa manufactures and distributes seeds for the garden worldwide. Some noteworthy seeds from this company are the Bush Bean Montalbano Cannellini, the deep purple Salangana Eggplant, and the Pieno Inerme Cardoon.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds
There is a good selection of Italian seeds here including everything from Chioggia beets, a red and white striped Italian beet, Arugula, both the cultivated and the wild type, and eggplants of assorted sizes and colors. One of my favorite items from Johnny’s is Catalogna, a cultivated dandelion from Italy. When small it adds a spice to salads and is a wonderful bitter green to braise when full grown. Of course a numerous selection of Italian tomato seeds can be found here, which will produce tomatoes in many colors and for a variety of uses.

Renee’s Garden
A wide variety of seeds are available here for your Italian garden. Why not try growing a tender Triest fennel that is wonderful braised or roasted, or perhaps the Italian Silver Rib Chard is a wonderful alternative to spinach. You’ll also find a number of great zucchini varieties including Ronde, a small round type that can be used to stuff, or the magnificent Trombetta which will climb up a trellis and produces long, pale tender squash. I always have Italian Misticanza, an imported blend of tangy chicories and endives on hand which produces a very tasty blend of salad greens.

Seeds Of Change
This company’s claim to fame is that they sell only organic seeds. They have a vast choice of any herb you may need for Italian cooking, a good assortment of beans of every description, and carry a number of quality lettuce seeds that would produce wonderful salads. They also have a number of seed collections, including an Sunflower Heaven Seed Collection that includes 6 different varieties of sunflowers.

Check out these company’s great selection of Italian seeds, and I am sure you’ll be more than tempted to try your hand at growing your own vegetables, which may even spark a new interest in Italian cooking.

By Deborah Mele 2011

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