Italy’s Amazing Summer Fruits

sculpture above done by Ross when she attended liceo artistico

Summer has arrived, and with it everyone’s favorite fruits – along with the desire to mangiare leggero (“eat light”) in the heat. At this time of year it’s not unusual to see mounds of cherries served as dessert, antipasto, or snack at parties and dinners. Juicy, sweet, bursting with flavor, all these need is a place to discard the pits and stems:

An Italian saying related to cherries (and applied to other things) is: una tira l’altra (“one pulls another”), as in: “I ate so many because they just kept coming out of the bowl, one after the other, their stems entangled…”

Have you ever seen more perfect plums? They come in many varieties and colors (blue, red, yellow, pink, purple), and all taste as good as they look:

If you’re visiting Italy in summer, here’s a restaurant tip: instead of dessert, order frutta di stagione (seasonal fruit). You may be asked what you want specifically, so here’s a little vocabulary:

  • pesche [PESS-kay] peaches
  • prugne [PROON-yay] plums
  • albicocche [al-bi-KOK-kay] apricots
  • ciliegie [chili-AY-JAY] cherries
  • pesche noci [PESS-kay NO-chee] nectarines
  • fichi [FEE-key] figs – these are often served as an antipasto, with prosciutto crudo – don’t miss it!
  • lamponi [lam-PONE-ee] raspberries
  • mirtilli [meer-TEEL-lee] blueberries

NB: Berries are known collectively as frutti di bosco (“forest fruits”). If you get a chance to eat fresh-picked wild blueberries (very occasionally available at restaurants and fruitsellers) do NOT pass it up. If you hike, keep your eyes peeled: you can find wild raspberries and blackberries free for the picking.

Peaches, plums, apricots, and cherries may be served floating in, or alongside, a large bowl of cold water. Dip the fruit in and swish it around to clean it, then eat! Many Italians peel their peaches with a knife before eating (often they are so ripe that the peel will slip away from the flesh with very little assistance), but you’re not obliged to – you’ll find that the skin is much thinner than you’re used to on American peaches.

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