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The Italian Kitchen Garden

The hallmarks of Italian cooking—appealing flavors, fresh ingredients, and robust seasonings—have made it America’s favorite cuisine.  No where is the connection between garden and plate more clearly drawn than in Italy.  Italian cooks not only use a lot of daily pasta with light sauces, but also are clever in the use of beans, broccoli, eggplant, artichokes, radicchio, greens, and many other vegetables.  

The vegetables I’ve selected are ethnic Italian varieties.  Why not brag about that spaghetti sauce you’ve made?   Be inventive when making pizza.   Show off a platter of raw vegetables or grill some coarse Italian country bread, rub it with a clove of fresh garlic, brush with a fine olive oil, rub a fresh tomato over it, and sprinkle with Italian sea salt.  I can only list one of each vegetable due to blog space, but to get a list of Italian varieties visit:  The Italian Inspired Kitchen Garden. 


Violetto de Chioggia 85 days.  Nearly spineless purple artichoke.  Italian heirloom.  Picked small when they have no choke, typical of older heirloom artichokes.  Source:  ANN TERR 

BEAN (pole) 

Meraviglia Venezia (Miracle of Venice)  A climbing yellow Roma.  Flat beans grow up to 10” long with no strings and great flavor.  Source:  SEE 

BEAN (bush) 

Marconi  55 days.  Green Roma type grows on upright plant.  Pick when small.  Very crisp and tasty.   Source:  SEE 

BEAN (shell) 

Cannelli White Kidney  100 days.  Classic Italian white shelling bean with large kidney-shaped seed.  Upright plant.  Source:  SEE SHU 

BEAN (fava) 

Extra Precoce A Grano violetta  Early Italian variety that produces long pods with 6 large purple beans.  Source:  BAK SEE 


Chioggia (Barabietola de Chioggia, Candystripe) (OP) 54 days.  Named for a fishing town near Venice.  Italian heirloom.  2 ½” globe reveals rings of white alternating red.  Very sweet beet. Tops are edible too.  Source:  ANN BAK BOU BURP COM GOU PAR SEE SEED SHU SOU TERR 

 Chioggia beet

 Chioggia beet    Photo courtesy Burpee 


Calabrese (Italian Green Sprouting) (OP)  58 days.  Italian heirloom.  Produces 3-6” central head, plus many side shoots.  Source:  ANN BAK COM GOU SEED SOU 

 Calabrese broccoli

Calabrese broccoli   Photo courtesy Annie's Heirloom Seeds 


Quarantina  28-55 days.  A small plant, 8-10” tall.  Good flavor.  Good for summer and fall.  Source:  GOU SEE 


Mezzo Nano (OP)  110 days.  Name means “half tall” or short.  Small outer leaves, long 3’ stalk with many small compact, tender sprouts.  Source:  SEE TERR 

 Mezzo Nano Brussels sprouts

Mezzo Nano Brussels Sprouts    Photo courtesy Terrior Seeds 

CABBAGE (pointed) 

Cour di Bue Grosso  65-70 days.  Conical head with tightly packed leaves.  3-4 pounds.  Italian heirloom that is nice and sweet.  Source:  ANN BAK GOU SEE 

CABBAGE (red) 

Cabeza Negra  75-85 days.  Deep red variety.  Large head.  The inner head has a rich red color and white veins.  The outer leaves are almost black.  Source:  GOU SEE 


Precoce de Jesi  65-75 days.  Old Italian variety.  Snowball shape, but has yellowish color.  Originally from Venice.  Source:  ANN GOU SEE 


Del Veneto  95 days.  3-4” across, fiberless, and tastes like celery.  Source:  SEE 


Dorato di Asti (Gigante Dorato, Giant Gildred)  98 days.  Slightly golden to light green in color.  Mild flavor and tender thin ribs.  Source:  GOU SEE 


Verde a Costa Bianca  55 days.  Green and silver.  Large head with huge leaves and thick white stem.  Excellent taste.  Source:  SEE 


Grumolo Bionda  Light green grumolo type for fall growing.  Initial growth is an elongated head with large, rounded leaves.  After harvesting leave the root in the ground and in spring you will get the grumolo rosette.  Source:  SEE 

CHICORY (radicchio) 

Rouge De Verone (Verona Red) (OP) 80-85 days.  Red-green colored radicchio.  If cut back in spring it will produce clusters of small apple size heads.  Source:  BAK BOU BURP GOU SEE SOU 

 Rouge De Verone  radicchio

Rouge De Verone  radicchio    Photo courtesy Burpee 

CHICORY (frisee) (endive-curled) 

Riccia Pancalieri  Large, bright-green frilly leaves with large ribs and golden heart.  Source:  SEE 

CHICORY (escarole) (endive not curled) 

Pan di Zucchero (Pan di Zucchero Selerzione Borca)  Sugarloaf type with soft green outer leaves and crisp center.  Known for its sweetness.  Upright, light green with large, long and very tight head.  Source:  GOU SEE 

CHICORY (cutting) 

Asparagus (Puntarella, Puntarelle a Folia Stretta)  85 days.  Italian heirloom.  Resembles a dandelion on steroids.  Hardy, excellent for greens.  Very long slender leaves.  Source:  BAK SEE 

CUCUMBER (slicing) 

Tortarello Abruzzese  63-70 days.  Italians love melon cucumbers, and this is one of those.  Closely related to melons.  Picked small, they taste like a cucumber, let it grow and it resembles a squash or melon, turn yellow and get sweeter.  Light green with some ribbing.   Source:  GOU SEE 


Bianca Sfumata di Rosa (Rotonda Bianca Sfumata Di Rosa, Romanesca)  75-120 days.  Big, round eggplant.  3-4” wide and 4-5” long.  White/pink color.  Creamy, non-bitter flesh with few seeds.  Source:  ANN BAK GOU SEE 

 Bianca Sfumata di Rosa eggplant

Bianca Sfumata di Rosa  eggplant   Photo courtesy Annie's Heirloom Seeds 


Romanesco  85 days.  Classic fennel from Rome.  Large head with thick, tightly wrapped stalks.  Source:  SEE 


Early Italian  Hardneck variety.  Large cloves.  Adapts to summer heat and keeps up to 8 months.  Source:  BURP 


Cavolo Nero Lacinato 60 days.  The most popular kale grown in Italy.  Wrinkled dark green, almost black leaves with smooth edges.  Excellent taste, improves after frost.  Source:  SEE 


Gigante d’Inverno  120 days.  Large storage type leek.  Big plant, blue-green tops with white bottoms with a bit of a bulb at the end.  Cold resistant.  Source:  SEE 

LETTUCE (blend) 

Misticanza (Mesclun) All Lettuce  14 lettuce varieties for salads.  Includes cutting lettuces, romaines, Four Seasons, Rossa di Trento and others.  Source:  SEE 

MELON (cantaloupe) 

Zatta (Brutto Ma Buono, Ugly But Tasty)  71 days.  One ugly melon, but has intense, rich flavor.  Italian heirloom.  Source:  GOU 

MELON (honeydew) 

Italian Honeydew  86 days.  Rind turns from green to creamy white to yellow when ripe.  Source:  GOU 

MELON (specialty melon) 

Rugoso Di Cosenza  “Amarillo Oro” type melon from Italy.  Bright golden rind with ridges.  White flesh.  Source:  BAK 

ONION (slicing) 

Borrettana (Cipollini)  105 days.  “Cipollini” onion with classic button shape and translucent yellow color.  Used as classic pickling onion.  Long to intermediate day type.  Italian heirloom.  Source:  ANN GOU SEE SEED TERR Borrettana onion

Borrettana  onion    Photo courtesy Annie's Heirloom Seeds 

ONION (red) 

Rossa Lunga di Firenze (Long Red Florence, Long of Florence) 100-120 days.  Italian heirloom.  Long bottle-shaped bulbs, attractive red color.  Mild and sweet.  Best used for fresh eating.  Long day type.  Source:  BAK SEE SEED 

 Rossa Lunga di Firenze onions

Rossa Lunga di Firenze onions   Photo courtesy Annie's Heirloom Seeds 


Telefono  62-68 days.  Climbing pea grows 5-6 feet.  Large pods with 7-10 peas per pod.  Grow on a trellis or fence.  Source:  SEE 

PEPPER (sweet) 

Corno De toro Rosso (Corno De Toro Red, Bull’s Horn)  75-90 days.  Italian heirloom , 6-8”, 2-3” diameter long and deep glowing red.  Thin skin and thick walls.  Ideal to stuff, fry or grill.  Source:  ANN BAK BOU GOU SEE SHU SOU 

 Corno De Toro Rosso 

Corno De Toro Rosso  sweet pepper   Photo courtesy Southern Exposure Seed Exchange 

PEPPER (hot) 

Pepperoncini Golden (OP)  50 days.  Also known as Tuscan peppers.  Trim upright 30” bushes are loaded with slender, slightly wrinkled green to red peppers.  Pick when 2-4” long.  Source:  ANN TERR 


Giant of Sicily  Large 2” round, summer radish.  Sicilian heirloom.  Bright red.  Great taste.  Source:  ANN BAK GOU 


Merlo Nero (Black Bird)  Italian spinach with crinkly, bright green leaves on big plants.  Source:  BAK SEE 

SQUASH (summer, zucchini) 

Striata D’Italia (Italian Striped)  50-60 days.  Medium-long Italian zucchini.  8-9” long and somewhat thicker at the blossom end.  Skin is striped in light and dark green and some ribbing.  Does well in cool weather.  Source:  BAK GOU SEE 

SQUASH (summer, misc.) 

Rugosa Friulana (Wrinkled of Friuli)  Common squash in northeastern Italy.  Light yellow fruits are beyond wrinkled, they are warted.  Ugly, but taste good and the flowers hold well.  Full of flavor.  Source:  BAK SEE 

SQUASH (winter) 

Piacentina (Beret of Piacenza, Berrettina Piacentina)  100 days.  Italian heirloom from Northern Italy.  3-5 pounds.  Flattened round gray/green with tasty yellow/orange flesh.  Exceptional storage capabilities.  Source:  GOU SEE 

TOMATO (slicing) 

Costoluto Genovese (Costoluto Genovese sel Valente)  75-80 days.  19th Century Italian heirloom.  Determinate.  Flattened and quite attractive with deep ribbing.  8-10 ounces.  Standard for eating and preserving.  Source:  BAK BOU GOU PAR SEE TERR TOT 

 Costoluto Genovese tomato

Costoluto Genovese tomato   Photo courtesy Totally Tomatoes 

TOMATO (paste/plum) 

Red Pear 70-75 days.  An old northern Italian variety.  This is a beefsteak tomato with vertical ribs.  8-18 ounce tomato that is meaty with few seeds.  Excellent flavor.  Indeterminate plants produce heavy yields over a long period.  Source:  SEE 


Milan (Rapa di Milano Colletto Viola, De Milan Rouge, Viola di Milano, Violet Top from Milan)  35-60 days. Buttery flavored baby turnip.   Sweet and tender.  Bright red shoulders.  Long storage.  Greens are sweet and mild.  Source:  ANN GOU SEE 

Don’t forget to plant Italian herbs to go along with your vegetable garden.  Basil, parsley, anise, chives, dill, marjoram, oregano, rosemary and tarragon are all good choices.

Seed Sources 

ANN  Annie’s Heirloom Seeds 

BAK  Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds 

BOU  Bountiful Gardens 

BURP  Burpee 

COM  Comstock Seeds 

GOU  Gourmet Seed International 

PAR  Park Seed 

SEE  Seeds from Italy 

SEED  Seed Savers Exchange 

SHU   R.H. Shumway’s 

SOU  Southern Exposure Seed Exchange 

TERR  Terroir Seeds 

TOT   Totally Tomatoes 

For a more complete list of Italian seed varieties visit:

© Copyright 2013 by Karen Newcomb