Members were promised an evening with a difference and to come prepared for a few surprises and thanks to the speaker, Paolo Arrigo of Franchi Seeds, they were not disappointed.
The evening got off to a musical start as Paolo commenced his presentation on his 90 year old piano accordion entertaining us with renditions of well known Italian music. This overture to the evening appropriately put us in an Italian mood to appreciate the Italian origin of many new vegetables brought to our shores by the Romans and now by 90 Seeds, the oldest family run seed business in the world established in 1783.
Contrary to our perception that Italy enjoys a Mediterranean climate Paolo explained that much of the country is mountainous and subject to a cold Alpine climate, thereby dispelling any assumptions that plants produced from seeds of Italian origin will not flourish in our climate. We also learnt that Franchi seeds is the only source of European vegetable seeds offered to the retail trade in the UK. All the other big names in the vegetable seed business import their seed from China.
We were introduced to many new varieties originating from Italy that are well suited to growing in the UK, including Raddicio from the Dolomites, Cavolo Nero from Tuscany, Fennel from the Alps and Borlotto beans that can be harvested for freezing when the pods shrivel and used to enrich casseroles. Given the abundance of interesting vegetables derived from Italy it was fully understandable that Paolo could claim that Italy is a ‘food driven economy’. As if to make the point Paolo had also written a vegetable cookery book that was on sale together with many packets of vegetable seeds. If all these come to fruition members should have plenty of interesting material to enter at the Autumn Show.