Sometimes life in Bascianella Abruzzo leaves one feeling bombarded with fresh vegetable goodness; the selection of vegetables to hand whether via the mobile mountain veggie van man that visits 3 times a week, the local town markets or the girls’ Friday vegetable stall in Tossicia, is wonderful. As if all this agricultural & horticultural splendour wasn’t enough, we have now stumbled across an Aladdin’s Cave of yet more multicoloured delights in Signor Zopito’s Ortofrutta in Isola del Gran Sasso.
On proud display here are not just the key traditional ingredients of the region but a slightly different, dare one say foreign, assortment which are not commonly found here. Local greengrocers back in the UK don’t tend to feature an extensive range of dried pulses & legumes and nuts that are normally available so heavily in small Italian greengrocers and his are a weekly changing cornucopia. For a wayward ex-vegetarian it feels like being taken by my Grandfather to choose sweeties or Easter Eggs, a wrinkled friendly face telling a story whilst I get busy with my paper bag doing a pick and mix – no plastic gloves, unlike supermarkets here.
His selection is so extensive, and the humble pride in the ingredients he stocks I am sure hints at a palette to beat any MasterChef contestant in a taste test. His Lupini beans, from the dried pods of those gorgeous stalky flowers, are excellent, the only place I have found that I really like them and though they’re always a constant firm fav with neighbours when having a beer, something to do with their salty tang & texture which I actually like with a glass of chilled dry Prosecco. Today I discovered fagioli bruni ‘brown beans’; I hadn’t ever seen those before and need to research what best to do with this new discovery – any recipes most gratefully received.
I am amazed how he squashes four varieties or more of everything into his small vaulted shop that always includes a rainbow assortment of peppers to choose depending on what you want to cook, six or seven types of onions and lettuce galore. There is also pasta and tins, some good bottles of wine, eggs, and all manner of packets that line the walls and hang from the ceiling, you could shop happily without ever having to wait at the local supermarket cash-till queue again!
What I find most surprising when I visit, and so different to shopping back in the UK, is that the local shops in the area that stock that those ‘premium products’ are generally cheaper than buying in supermarkets. Rather than the large chains undercutting and driving local businesses to close their doors the smaller shops here do manage to be competitive and attract, perhaps it’s crammed full wide range or the wrinkled charm, but a big thank you for helping to cut down on my car miles!