A focus on ‘Chiantishire’ – Veg brought back from ‘The Grand Tours’ 1680 to 1900s in Tuscany

A focus on ‘Chiantishire’ – Veg brought back from ‘The Grand Tours’ 1680 to 1900s in Tuscany

Paolo Arrigo on 7th Jun 2023

Say Tuscany and you think of rolling hills and poplar trees, vineyards and excellent wine, old farmhouse in acres of countryside and buildings like the Uffizi, the cathedral, the Ponte Vecchio and Palazzo Vecchio. Tuscany screams art, history and style and has been a favourite with Brits since ‘Il Grande Giro’ or ‘The Grand Tour’ which started in the 1660’s and continued into Victorian times (as per the 1985 film ‘A Room With a View’). It was a right of passage for the young sons and daughters of nobleman who packed them off to Tuscany to study art, culture, language, music – It was considered a rite of passage to complete their education. So much so that Tuscany was sometimes called Chiantishire!

People returning from the Grand Tour often brought back the local seeds. so much so that if you were to recreate a British Victorian walled garden and it didn’t have Tuscan Cavolo Nero kale in it, it would not be a faithful reproduction!

Like all Italian regions, Tuscany is a centre of regional food. Much Italian veg is still regional and often found only in its home region and the Tuscans are fiercely proud and protective of these wonderful ingredients!

Red Onion Lunga of Florence – red onions originated in Italy and this regional variety has a high sugar content making it ideal to caramelize or eat raw. Sow spring and again autumn.

Cavolo Nero Kale of Tuscany– Sow in the summer and harvest through the winter. Used to make the national dish of Florence, a stew called ‘Ribollita Toscana’.

Courgette Lungo of Florence – a restaurant quality zucchini which makes loads of delicious flowers too. Pick smaller with the flower still attached. Sow spring or early summer

Tomato Costoluto Fiorentino – Ugly, mid sized, misshapen, hard stalk in the middle. Guess what? Correct, lost flavours. This variety is even an RHS AGM winner (Award of Garden Merit) Sow in spring.

Chickpea Principe of Tuscany - related to the bean family, treat it like a dwarf bean, plant in full sun. Use it to make bean salads, humous, chick pea curry and more! Sow late spring to early summer.