Orto News


Well, we are harvesting! The daily routine involves snipping some lettuce, some basil leaves and now, for the first time, some grapes.  We weren’t sure what kind of grapes we had, and everyone in town calls them “Uva Americana” or American grape. They seem a bit Concord-esque, but they don’t have that knock out fragrance that a Concord grape has. In any event, it’s glorious to have our own grapes.

The bad news is that the ortica is growing back! Ortica is stinging nettle, and I know it’s good to eat, I know it smells good, but I hate the stuff. I went at it with the hoe the other day, but it’s like trying to use an umbrella to fend off a tidal wave.
Jeff told Signor
Bruschi (our garden landowner) to stop buying lettuce and to take it from the orto. Every morning we have one less lettuce head and we don’t know if it’s Signor Bruschi or a salad-loving hedge hog.

You see the pointy stuff at the back of my basket? That’s puntarelle, it’s a bitter green in the chicory family. As usual, I have a bit more enthusiasm than hard facts. I’ve eaten puntarelle exactly twice, once in NY and once in Milano, and loved the bitter flavor. I know that’s it’s a specialty in Rome. I know you have to do ‘something’ to the leaves before you eat them. So, I consulted my local cookbooks that said I need to split the leaves down the center, place them in cold water, and they will curl. I dutifully split the leaves, but apparently the puntarelle never read the rulebook, because they just lay in the water and never even thought of curling. I dug around some more on the internet and it seems that you are supposed to harvest puntarelle in late winter or early spring! Bah. I want my puntarelle now…so we had it…uncurled and with Roman style anchovy dressing.  It’s was delicious, even if it is only September.


  1. mitch on September 8, 2008 at 8:29 am

    I think if you want the leaves to curl, you have to use really cold water, though…maybe not.

    I love this stuff too, dressed exactly as you say – lots of anchovies…

Leave a Comment

For security, use of Google's reCAPTCHA service is required which is subject to the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

If you agree to these terms, please click here.