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Grow an Italian Garden

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Cool season:

Green Onions

At the green onion stage, when the plants have produced foliage but aren’t flowering just yet, harvest every second or third plant by removing the plant, bulb and all, from the soil. The leaves can be used as scallions in flavoring or garnishing Italian dishes. The remaining onions are given enough room in the ground to develop into full size before they’re ready for harvest where the bulbs can be used in cooking.

Fava Bean

The fava bean is an excellent cool-season Italian crop whose beautiful red flower is not only attractive but also edible. “It has a subtle flavor, but it adds a beautiful color to a dish,” he says. The growing season for favas usually lasts about 100 to 120 days, depending on the variety. Plant them in the fall and spring, and enjoy the harvest all season long. Then save the seed for the next growing season.

Romanesco Cauliflower

Romanesco cauliflower is another Italian veggie loaded with flavor. ‘Veronica’ is a Romanesco type that produces a large flower head with a bright yellow-green color and interesting pattern. Eierman’s crop of Veronica cauliflower shows signs of pest damage on the leaves. After some detective work, he rules out cabbage loopers and slugs and determines that finches were responsible.

Kale

Kale is an under-appreciated, cool-season vegetable that’s loaded with vitamins and minerals. Lacinato kale has black foliage that make this an ornamental edible Italian heirloom.

Rosemary

No Italian garden would be complete without rosemary. ‘Tuscan Blue’ is one selection that has great flavor. Colby recommends using cut stems of this rosemary as skewers for grilling. To do this, simply cut one stem, about 8 to 10 inches in length, and remove the leaves, stripping them off with your thumb and forefinger. Use the bare stems for skewing and grilling meat or raw vegetables. The stripped leaves can be set aside for future use in flavoring Italian dishes.

Broccoli

Broccoli is a cousin of the Romanesco cauliflower. This hearty Italian heirloom provides a consistent harvest throughout the growing season.

Warm Season

San Marzano Tomato

Discover why gourmet and home chefs around the world seek out San Marzano tomatoes. These teardrop-shaped, meaty, plum-type tomatoes are famous for their sweet, complex flavor that creates a fabulous pasta sauce. Choose San Marzano tomatoes if you like to can whole tomatoes, whip up homemade tomato sauce, or freeze slow-roasted tomatoes. These tomatoes also taste great chopped into salads and sliced onto sandwiches.

Italian (Genovese) Basil

Fragrant, flavorful, extra-large leaves are the very favorites of the culinary world! This is a Genovese basil, rich in oils and so aromatic you will smell it long before you see it in the garden! Whether you use it for pesto, spaghetti sauce, or simply as a companion to your tomato plants (basil is a superb pest repellant), choose Large-leaf Italian as your “go-to” mainstay basil for big, satisfying harvests all summer long.

Basils are loaded with volatile oils, responsible for the heady aroma and strong flavor so essential to cooking. Large-Leaf Italian basil is regarded as the essential variety for true Neapolitan cuisine, especially pesto. And in the garden, basil works to repel aphids, mites, and hornworms.

Corni di Toro Pepper

The Corno di Toro pepper is sometimes called Bull’s Horn Chile Pepper or Cowhorn Pepper. The name of this Italian Cubanelle type heirloom translates as “horn of the bull”. Long 8-inch tapered, bull-horn shaped, peppers are sweet and mature from glossy green to either red, yellow or orange. They are great fresh or roasted. Brought to this country by Italian immigrants and widely used in sauces ever since.