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ORIGINS

VEGETABLES

Vegetables were also commonly used on the ancient Romans table. Turnip had a leading position, together with carrots, beets and numerous roots. Asparagus were very expensive, they were sold in bunches and, according to Pliny (AD 23-79), had to weigh at least a pound in three; the tips reduced into a puree, cooked in wine with eggs, were considered a delicacy. The broccoli, however, was boiled and seasoned with garum (the famous Roman seafood sauce, which shall be discussed later), oil, wine, leek, pepper, cumin and coriander. For the leeks it was a tradition to consume only the leaves cut at the foot of the plant, so that they could soon grow again: it seems that Nero was particularly fond of leeks and he used to eat them without bread to keep his voice beautiful. Chard was not held in high consideration for the lack of flavour and for that reason it was seasoned with wine and plenty of pepper. Three varieties of cabbage were consumed: smooth-leaved, curly leaf with thin and soft stalks, they used to eat them by soaking in vinegar the raw leaves and seasoning the remaining parts with salt, cumin and oil.

Regarding the consumption of potatoes, the first sign of the presence of the tuber crop in Calabria is found in the Annals of the Reign of Naples of 1811, the first serious and methodical investigation on the South wanted by Joachim Murat when he took office in the Reign of Naples. In the book, with reference to the land of "Calabria Citra", there is a list of all the cultivated plants of the time and among them is also reported the "apple of the earth solanum tuberosum" with the caveat that the tuber was known for "good quality, and the healthy [properties] . At the time it was usually cultivated in gardens and "then transplanted into fertilized soil." Since its introduction in Calabria, potato, thanks to the favourable climatic, soil and morphological conditions of some production areas particularly suited (e.g. the Sila Plateau) became so closely linked to the territory to establish a strong liaison with the traditional cuisine of Calabria, heritage of a country world not even too far away. Famous are the dishes prepared with homemade pasta topped with chilli, garlic, anchovies, ricotta cheese, mushrooms, cheese, vegetables and potatoes of course. These are also combined with meat, roasted or grilled and served as a side dish.

Among the most famous or more characteristics recipes of farmers' cooking with potato we remind:

• Cabbage soup with chicory, beans and potatoes,

• Pasta potatoes and eggs,

• Pasta and baked potatoes,

• Pasta potatoes and zucchini.

• Pasta with wild fennel potatoes and meat,

• roast meat, especially pork, lamb, goat, wild boar of which the area is rich, accompanied by side dishes of potatoes.

Mushrooms were a luxury and rare food, but also a bit feared as poisonous; although they lacked of techniques to identify the edible from the poisonous ones, it was not uncommon to find mushrooms served on the tables of rich people. There also was a large number of salads, much appreciated because, as Pliny said, they were ready made and saved the consumption of firewood; at that time salads were made mainly of endive, lettuce, wild herbs, chicory, chicken, rocket, and sometimes with the addition of legumes.