Five Favourite Italian Edibles

I went to my local Italian grocer this week and chose seed packs for the contest. I tried to stick with varieties that winners can grow in a variety of conditions whether that’s location/climate, season, small spaces, big spaces, and containers. Some of these can be direct sown and some should be started indoors. Something for everyone!

Italian seed packets tend to be very generous and these are no exception. Each packet contains enough seed to sow a farm or share with several friends.

Below you’ll find write-ups on each variety that I chose. Many of these varieties have become available through companies that sell heirloom seed, but I still find that Spigarello is not commonly available. My local grocer didn’t sell it last year and I was so glad when they listened to my pleas and stocked it again for 2013.

There is still time to enter the contest but you must do so over here. Enjoy!

Spigarello aka cavolo broccolo ‘A Getti di Napoli’: Also goes by the common name leaf broccoli. I’ve grown this over three seasons now, by differing methods (raised beds and containers), and in different locations (roof garden, the old yardshare, and my new garden) and I still LOVE it. Better than kale or broccoli and a little like both. The only trouble I have had with it were aphids in the fall of 2011. Read more about it here.

Pomodoro ‘Costoluto Genovese’ aka Ribbed Tomato of Genovese: The last time I grew this old, Italian heirloom variety was in 2006. It is an indeterminate and so I tried it in a very large, plastic container (basically a garbage can) on the roof where I grew a container garden for about 15 years. It did alright in the pot, producing a reasonable number of medium-sized, healthy fruit. I think it is fairly adaptable to heat and a little drought and so I chose this one knowing that some of you might not have a space in terra firma but would still like to give it a shot.

The fruit are very beautiful: ribbed and flattened, and resembling a tiny, red pumpkin. They are also good saucing tomatoes and I believe at their best if you can provide heat and lots of sun (all tomatoes want these conditions but some are pickier than others). I have a soft spot for ribbed/fluted tomatoes (I grow every variety I can find) and I regret that I have not had a chance to grow this one again. I plan to correct that this year and have reserved a spot for it in-ground (or one of the raised beds) where I know it will have a chance to fully flourish. I’ll report back on that.

Ravenello ‘Candela di Fuoco’ aka Candle of Fire Radish: I recently wrote about my unique experience with this variety. They’re a little long for container growing, unless you can provide some depth, but I would also suggest growing them in containers for the edible flowers, leaves, and seed pods if you don’t have the conditions to cultivate deep tap roots. The roots themselves are beautiful and good fresh or roasted in the oven.

Fagiolo Rampicante Violetto aka ‘Trionfo Violetto’ Pole Bean: I’ve been growing these from this particulr packet for a few years now and I do believe they are the same as those I have grown from packets marked ‘Trionfo Violetto.’ If they are different, I can’t tell. I have tried many pole beans, several of which are fantastic, but this is still my favourite pole bean and the one I always reserve space for no matter what. They produce beautiful purple flowers and beans like nobody’s business and I find that they stay edible right off the vine even if you leave them on too long. The plant itself has streaks of purple through it. I just can’t rave enough. You can read more over here.

Rucola ‘Selvatica’ aka Wild Italian Arugula: I have grown a few different types of arugula through the years and this one is by far my favourite and the only one that I grow now. It doesn’t have that hairiness you find on some varieties and I find that even though it does grow increasingly sharp and pungent in the heat, it is still one of the few if only greens that I have absolutely no trouble growing through the hottest summers. When the leaves become inedible I simply eat the flowers. After the summer I cut it back and the plant puts out a new crop for fall. I’ve even had success with this plant coming back in the spring with new and more vigorous growth. Honestly, my only problem with this plant is having too much! Read more here.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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5 thoughts on “Five Favourite Italian Edibles

  1. Love this. Fava is my favorite. A neighbor grows gorgeous cardoon and artichokes, and I hope to snag transplants sometime.

  2. Thanks for the tip as to the amount of seeds. I know an Italian grocer who carries seeds and will be sure to pay him a visit for more than lunch meat!

  3. I LOVE your blog! You DO grow girl. How fabulous is that!!!

    Can you advise me about where I might find the Spigarello Broccoli seeds. have looked everywhere! Have grown the more traditional broccolis here in Wisconsin with great success, but LOVE the idea of a broccoli/kale.

    Please share what info you might have about obtaining these lovely seeds.

    Many. many warm regards,


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