Farmers Market Update: Tuscany

by | Jun 13, 2010

Favas

I am absolutely honored to introduce Judy Witts: Tuscan market maven, cooking teacher, Italian life coach and author of the Divina Cucina book of Tuscan recipes.

Judy lives, shops and teaches cooking in Florence, the central city in the Italian region of Tuscany. I spent several months in Tuscany during college (my home was in Siena) and I’m delighted to have someone as knowledgeable as Judy share with you the magic of the region.

What I find particularly fascinating and inspirational about Judy’s account is her emphasis on the vendors themselves. Though at a farmers market we tend to focus on the food, it is essential to remember that none of it would be there without the care and passion of those who produce it.

Find more of Judy’s market adventures and recipes at her blog Over A Tuscan Stove and follow her on Twitter @divinacucina

Thank you Judy, and I hope the next time we share a meal it is in your neighborhood!

Farmers Market Update: Tuscany

by Judy Witts

I have had a thing for markets for as long as I can remember. Before working in hotels and starting a professional career in food, I loved to travel and was always drawn to markets to explore what the locals ate before heading out on my own.

I lived near the Plaka in Athens for 3 month–over 30 years ago–and can still remember the smell of brined olives and huge cauldrons of boiling tripe and soups at the late night market. Sitting and eating there was like living in a Fellini film.

Duccio Siena

Duccio Siena

Antonio

Antonio

When I moved to Florence in 1984, I found myself drawn once again to the hectic market space to learn the language of food in my new country. Shopping was my way to understand not just the language but customs, and also gather recipes.

In every new town I visit markets are still the first stop for me to see what is the same and what is different.

New Garlic

New Garlic

New Potatoes

New Potatoes

For my cooking classes we plan our menus at the market, celebrating local traditions and the seasons. Why plan a menu only to arrive and find you have chosen ingredients which are not in season?

New Red Onions

New Red Onions

My Italian mother-in-law taught me to spend more time shopping and less time cooking.

The secret behind this is to buy ingredients in season at the height of their flavor peak, which means you need less fussy cooking to create a great meal.

Tenerumi

Tenerumi

Apricots

Apricots

Having a few high quality pantry items also makes your cooking taste better.

Parmigiano Reggiano

Parmigiano Reggiano

In Tuscany this means extra virgin olive oil and some sea salt. I have traditional balsamic vinegar and some homemade red wine vinegar, which is popular in Tuscany.

Porchetta

Porchetta

Just Eggs

Just Eggs

I shop at the local markets weekly or head down to Florence for their covered Central Market. Recently I toured Bologna to visit the Slow Food Market and Rome to see the newly rebuilt Mercato Trionfale.

Meat

Meat

Herbs

Herbs

Not only do I go to the markets for the food, but also for the artisan butchers and the purveyors.

Mannetti Maialino

Mannetti & Maialino

For Italians, these are not just jobs but traditions which have been passed down through generations. Each artisan is an expert in his field. What better way to learn to cook and, more so, how to eat?!

Giovanni

Giovanni

Marcello

Marcello

We are currently heading into the summer. tomatoes are sold green from local farms and ripe red from Sicily and Puglia, where the sun and volcanic soil work quickly to ripen fruits and vegetables.

Green Tomatoes

Green Tomatoes

Bad weather is also a gift, a raining day followed by heat, gives us porcini mushrooms.

Hug your butcher. Bring cookies to your vegetable purveyor–your health is in their hands!

Stefano Conti

Stefano Conti

Ricardo

Ricardo

Love yourself and treat yourself to the best, you deserve it.

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7 Responses to “Farmers Market Update: Tuscany”

  1. I’ve been reading a book called “Under the Tuscan Sun” by Frances Mayes… it’s full of descriptions of the sights, sounds, tastes of Italy. It even has recipes of Tuscan cuisine.

    Yep, I love my farmers!

  2. This post makes me want to travel, cook and eat (and, yes, in that order)! Thanks for sharing your words and the gorgeous photos.

  3. Oriana says:

    I was lucky enough to spend a day with Judy last week – what she says is so true – we spend half the day exactly shopping at the farmers’ market – we asked what their produce was all about, Judy chose things one-by-one! If your greens aren’t good it’s pointless to even start cooking!
    http://www.turismo.intoscana.it/allthingstuscany/tuscanycious/tuscan-cooking-class-with-divina-cucina/

  4. I’m glad you mentioned red wine vinegar. I think all Italians want the world to know it’s an important staple and has somehow wrongly become overlooked.

    (Just ask my mom).

  5. Karen G. says:

    What is Tenerumi??? Did you ever do a search for it, it must be a best kept secret. I’m sorry it looked interesting.

  6. Karen Z says:

    I spent 3 days in October learning Tuscan ways and cooking with Judy, a completely fabulous experience! Stefan Conti’s shop in Firenze has amazing local products. I can’t wait to go back. Judy taught us to speak with the vendors at the market and learn what is best and in season. It has made our Sunday morning farmer’s market so much fun.

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