Monterosso, Liguria - Spring means lots of things here in Italy.
Little flowers peeking through damp soil, pink blossoms opening on cherry trees, kumquats glowing orange against lush green leaves, and most importantly, the return of color and fun vegetables to our weekly markets.
There are some vegetables that look more like geometry projects than things you eat (broccolo romanesco) and some others that appear only for a few weeks in the spring time.
Everyone makes a beeline for the fava beans as you are elbow to elbow with an old nonna buying what looks to be her weight in the bright green pods.
The local wild asparagus gets snapped up in minutes, knowing eyes surveying the woody, scraggly thin stalks full of flavor and still covered in dirt.
Barba di frate, which look like lawn clippings, are usually caked in mud too, but when cleaned, boiled and sauteed in garlic and oil, it’s earthy, spinach-like flavor tastes just like spring.
Sometimes I wind up picking things up without even knowing what they are, but knowing that they will be gone in just a few weeks as the summer peaches and cherries claim their space makes them taste even more delicious.
By Christine Mitchell