The Black Celery Festival of Trevi

I am quickly learning that Umbria is a wonderful place to be in the fall with the grape harvest at the end of September to the olive harvest starting a month later. Add to that the many food festivals celebrated in between, and there is always something to do each week here in Umbria. The weather is also milder in the fall, there are less tourists visiting, and the fall colors are simply lovely. We recently visited the small town of Trevi during their Sedano Nero, (black celery festival), a celebration created to spotlight this unique and selective vegetable.

Now I have tasted black celery last year but that was in a restaurant where the celery was cooked in sauce and topped with grated cheese. I have never seen black celery though it in it’s natural state so I was surprised to see it was not so different from the every day regular celery you see except it’s leaves were much darker, similar to the dark green of parsley. I found out later once I started to cook with the celery that it did indeed have a more pronounced, or stronger celery flavor. The celery in Trevi, called apium graveolous, is quite famous across Italy and is only grown on the outskirts of this small town. It has become such a specialty item that has now been designated as one of the 15 or so IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) products in Umbria. This basically means black celery can only be grown in this small designated area outside of Trevi.

On the Sunday morning the festival began, we drove to Trevi to check things out and to hopefully buy some black celery. Once we arrived in Trevi, we followed the crowds into the main piazza where multiple stalls were set up to sell black celery as well as a few other fall Umbrian specialties. There were also carts selling warm, roasted chestnuts, and a large stand set up in the center of the piazza to sell sausage sandwiches, the sausages roasted over a wood burning fire creating a fragrant aroma of roasted pork that enveloped you as soon as you entered the piazza. Along with the sausage sandwiches, pinzimonio, or stalks of fresh black celery were being served with new local olive oil for dipping. Of course it being Italy, to enjoy along side this fall feast, glasses of the local red wine recently harvested were sold.

I was quite impressed with the gorgeous green color as well as the freshness of the celery being sold from overflowing bins so found myself buying three large bunches of celery to take home. We also bought a package of black celery flavored pasta, some celery paste for bruschetta, and couldn’t resist a small bag of black truffles. There were other stands local artisan cheese, breads, and sweets, and even one company selling new olive oil pressed just days earlier. We couldn’t leave without a bag of warm, roasted chestnuts and we even bought a bag of fresh chestnuts to take home. There are also four dining areas, or tavernas, set up for dining each evening of the festival offering a feast of selections created with black celery for folks to really appreciate this local specialty. I do plan to return next year to Trevi during this unique food festival but will plan on making reservations to dine at one of the tavernas next time. The Sedano Nero festival may be a small one, but it has something for everyone, particularly great food. Next week, truffle festival in Gubbio.

Italian “Brunch”


Overflowing Bins Of Fresh Black Celery


Busy Piazza in Trevi During Sedano Nero Festival


Deborah Mele
October 2009

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