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Venezia Parte 1 Maggio 2013 880

From the beginning, Venetians had to use what was available for cooking from their immediate surroundings – laguna, litorale, estuario.

The first notes on cooking in the Venetian Lagoon were given by the Roman (culinary) chronists Marziale and Apicius, who lived around the year 400 AD.

They mention that lattughe – Lagoon salads, wild spinach and wild asparagus were amongst the herbs most widely used, accompanying fish and breads made from grain. Beyond the Lagoon, towards the river mouths and around the village of Altino, grain fields were located as they still are today. Spring herbs take well on marshy islands. Like the numerous vegetables harvested here, herbs cultivated here taste salty, for salt water infiltrates the soil with high tides.


I love the mouth-watering description Arrigo Cipriani gives of the special quality of Lagoon soil on which the our vegetables and herbs grow, in “Harry’s Bar Cookbook”:

The soil of the islands is sandy, salty, and full of minerals – it is constantly being flooded by high tides – and ideally suited to vegetable farming … the island vegetables are small. But they have the mos intense flavor of all the vegetables grown in Italy … I would even say the world. … all year I look forward to … our own incomparable artichokes, asparagus, salad greens, rucola, zucchini, onions, tomatoes … and all the other fruits of this curious sandy and salty earth.

From March to May, you find the Rialto Market spilling over with greens – herbs and green vegetables like sweet peas and asparagus, that grow in or around the Lagoon.

The stalls at the Rialto Market are decorated with tamarisk sprigs and display hops, agresti, bruscandoli, barba di frate … you name it – it’s a wonderful, vitamin-rich and cleansing herb basket we usually take home in spring, once a week.

The most widely used herbs Venetians use to season dishes, pasta gnocchi, fish and meat, are parsley and chives in the winter. Rosemary and thyme are used fresh to spice up steak or season home-made bread. Mid-sized basil grows in profusion next sage bushes on the islands.

Spring in Venice is actually celebrated with a green sauce salsa verde – made from fresh greens, a sort of pesto eaten with gnocchi or traditionally, to accompany bollito misto – mixed boilt meat. Especially on the island of Burano, people love seasoning food with portulak.


Venezia Parte 1 Maggio 2013 891



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