Melon vendor in Reillanne ©Rubber Slippers In Italy
Just heard this on the news. I guess it’s a good thing, seeing that we’ve been taking little trips here and there whenever the opportunity arises. The big question is where do all of these italians go when it’s time for the summer holidays, apart from visiting relatives way on the other side of the peninsula? My brother-in-law took his family to visit Monument Valley, our neighbors went to the Bahamas, and some of MotH’s colleagues have flown across the pond to somewhere in the states.
Unless it’s to Hawaii, we pretty much stay within 1 or 2 day’s drive from home. Last month in Provence, the woman in the room next to ours stopped us while we were on our way out and abruptly rattled off in italian, telling MotH that she knew there was another Italian around when she heard him talking. Without losing a beat he replied “sì, siamo dovunque!” Yes, we are everywhere!
Even with the 2nd round of hotter than usual weather beating down upon us, we were one of the courageous few to brave the heat at an organic farm that I recently discovered. The concept of pick-your-own, U-pick, or self-service as it’s called at Cascina Peliza (southwest of Bergamo) has yet to catch on here and I can only hope that the possibility to get fresh fruit from the source will grow to become a favorite pastime like it is in the states. We are spoiled by the availability of excellent produce at the fruttivendolo (greengrocer) and weekly produce markets, so why pick your own?
Because it’s fun, and for people like us who love the idea of organically-grown fruit, it’s like a kid in a candy store. Look at all those berries! Why aren’t there more people?!? We had a blast berry-picking for 2 Sundays in a row. This past Sunday we hit the blackberry bushes big time and brought home nearly 8 pounds. The more you pick, the lower the prices went, and the bushes were of a thornless variety. The Sunday before last, there was a melon sagra at the farm and we got what was left of the blueberries and also some raspberries. I froze a third of the blackberries, baked another third in a tart, and the rest will disappear soon enough because they’re so good in everything from fruit salad to smoothies.
If you have fruit-picking stories, please share!
At Cascina Peliza: prosciutto and melon after harvesting berries
Melon soup? We had something close to melon wonderful at a french b&b last year, but not being able to persuade the owner to share her recipe, I put together my own version for a refreshing summer lunch. Like that fine example in France, it was the finely shredded basil that made all the difference, lending an unexpected herbal note to the delicate melon flavor.
I’ve made this with cantaloupe but the result wasn’t quite the same. Charentais melon has a flavor all its own, and if you can find them, they should be ripe and sweet. I always take a good sniff to make sure of this. Serve the soup at the start of the meal. Grilled salmon with buttered pasta and herbs make a good main course. Finish with anything really chocolate.
Charentais melon soup
1 Charentais melon, or a super sweet cantaloupe (2 1/2 pounds)
juice of freshly squeezed 1/2 orange
a good pinch of salt
1-2 tablespoons honey
2-3 sweet basil leaves, cut into a fine chiffonade
Halve the melon and remove the seeds. Scoop the flesh into a food processor fitted with a blade. Process quickly until smooth. Add the orange juice, salt, and honey. Pulse to blend thoroughly.
I like my soup to be less on the gritty side, so I pour half of it through a sieve and press on the solids. After mixing the strained juice with the remainder, it goes into the fridge and chilled until very cold. Top with the basil chiffonade just before serving. Serves 4.