After visiting La Pescheria fish market (previous post), my next favourite thing to do in Catania is to walk around the fruit & veg section of the general market, the Fera ò Luni, which is just up the road in Piazza Carlo Alberto. My map here.
‘Fera ò Luni’ means ‘Monday market’ because originally it was only open on the first day of the week. Nowadays it runs daily except for Sundays. I rented an AirBnB nearby just so I could wander through it every day to look at the beautiful produce on sale. The stallholders have always been very friendly with me and have happily answered questions and let me take photos. If your lucky you can even taste a few samples (my video here).
There’s lot of unusual fruit & veg to see. This large yellow citrus is called a Cedro (or Citron in Latin) and is one of the three original citrus fruits from which all other Citrus types are derived (the others are the mandarin orange and the pomelo).
Originally thought to come from India, it’s believed that cedri were brought back to the Mediterranean by the army of Alexander the Great. It’s the same fruit as Etrog which features in Jewish religious traditions (see my blog post on Machane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem). The taste is much stronger than that of a lemon so in Sicily the skin is often used to make candied peel for cakes. The juice can be added to dishes to help balance flavours and the pith is used to make a salad.
This wonderful long courgette is called a Cucuzza. A slang version of the name, ‘googootz’, is used as an Italian term, usually of endearment, meaning ‘a useless person’. In the final episode of the Sopranos Tony asks Carmela “Where’s googootz?”, referring to his son little Anthony.
The Cucuzza’s leaves (advertised here as Tenerumi meaning ‘tops’ but also known as ‘Taddi’ in Calabria) can also be eaten. In Sicily i’s often cooked in a soup called Pasta con Tenerumi.
These multi-coloured fruit are called Fichi d’India, (Indian figs) which in English we know as prickly pears. This cactus plant was brought back from Mexico by the Spanish (Columbus thought he’d discovered India, hence the name) and it now flourishes all around the Med.
In 2004 I bought some to try and got stung with three pears that had small rotten patches, so make sure you check what you buy. My AirBnB host Leo told me that the small, white prickly pears that grow wild are called ‘bastardoni’ (I think because they’re by themselves). So the sign on one stall I saw that said ‘bastardoni nostrani’ presumably meant that their wild pears where homegrown. It’s also useful to remember that in Italian a fig is called a ‘fico’ whereas the singular feminine form ‘fica’ is an extremely vulgar word for female genitalia!
Another unusual fruit we don’t really see in the UK is Nespole, which we know as Medlar or Loquat (there’s some confusion due to there being two varieties). It was grown by the ancient Greeks and Romans, since at least the second century BC, and was once quite popular during the Middle Ages in Western Europe, although we have lost the taste for it now. It’s good for making jams and fruit salads and the seeds are used to make a spirit called Nespolino, apparently similar to Amaretto or Nocino, which I have yet to track down.
This unusual cucumber is called ‘commarella’ or ‘tortarello’ in Italian but is known as the Armenian cucumber in English as that is where it was first described by an English traveller. The skin is thinner and less bitter than that of the common cucumber. It shouldn’t be confused with the snake gourd found in Indian cuisine.
This is Asparagi Selvatici or wild asaragus. The shoots are picked when they are much smaller than those of cultivated asparagus.
Pleus Extra are a particularly large type of oyster mushroom.
It was garlic season when I was last there in late May and everywhere fresh garlic was being sold by the mazzo (bunch) or treccia (braid).
There were of course lots of familiar fruit and veg as well.
But do you know your Fagioline (green beans) from your Fave (broad beans)?
Carciofi (artichokes) must have been in season as they were everywhere.
Also courgettes, aubergines and onions, but not quite as we know them.
There beautiful strawberries were from Marsala on the opposite coast of Sicily.
On other occasions I’ve seen cherry tomatoes from Pachino (famous), bags of peperoncino, dried oregano, sun-dried tomatoes, green lemons, and lots of olives, almonds and chestnuts.
Wish I could go to this cheesemonger at home.
There was the odd fish stall despite the fish market just being down the road. I think you’d only get freshwater eels here though.
And Baccalà; dried Norwegian saltcod.
There were some snails on sale, although they didn’t seem as popular as they were in Sardinia where these brown Crastoni were called Monzette or Monachelle. Both islands also eat another grey variety with black and white strips called Babbaluci (Sizigorrus in Sardinia) and it’s smaller version called Babbaluceddi (Tappadas).
There was some meat but not much. Castrato is the meat of a castrated male sheep (as opposed to a 17th century male soprano).
There is a panificio (bakery) at 68 Via Grotte Bianche (northern end of the market) where a nice old lady can sell you some freshly baked bread, with or without sesame seeds.
Just as you’ll find a bit of fish in the veg market, there’s also some veg down at the fish market.
The northern end of Via Pardo has some great stalls.
But in Sicily there’s always someone selling something I want to eat.
Just wish I had a kitchen.
Street food next!