Friday, July 03, 2009

All the fruit in Puglia

The good parts of the trip were very good. When we arrived at the villa, after a somewhat disheartening drive by some very soviet looking apartment buildings and through towns of cardboard-flimsy buildings and over roads more hole than pot, we met Paolo, the son of the owner and our English speaking host. He pointed out the coffee, the semi-stocked mini-fridge and the fact we had to pay in cash. Except for the cash part, which would prove one of the stickingest points of the trip, we were happy there was cold milk and cold, fresh cherries in the fridge. Z could live on cherries and milk. 
Paolo invited us to pick any fruit on the fruit trees. This was early June. What fruit could possibly be ready? I was already amazed about the cherries but then we saw the peaches. Walking around the villa's couple of acres I found lemons, oranges, pears, apricots, figs, some weird caterpillar looking fruit under which Milo, the caretaker, draped a huge net to catch the falling fruit. Apparently, in this region of Italy, this is also how they collect olives. Most of the olive oil in Italy comes from this region but since they collect the olives with the net, which means the olives are a little over-ripe, it's not as high quality as the olives that are collected directly from the branch. These fruits were more starchy than sweet. I was the only ones who ate them. 
Not all the fruit was ripe yet and while we had a few peaches from the tree abutting one of the stone huts, Paolo and his girlfriend came by and collected them all one day. There was another peach tree but it wasn't ready yet. The figs were almost ready and we ate a couple. We pulled some almost ripe apricots and plums--still tart but pretty delicious.
Around the town of Lecce and in different cities we found even more fruit. Watermelon in June! More cherries. We went through pounds of peaches. While there weren't as many berries as you'd imagine, Z did find some strawberries. To complement her obligatory "Spaghetti con il burro," we also learned to order "Frutta da Stagione." One time, the seasonal fruit included a whole half a watermelon. Apparently Erik isn't much of a still life photographer so I don't have any pictures of the monstrosity but when he served the melon, the table looked very Flinstone-esque.
We had melon and prosciutto and kiwis. Oranges and apricots. I'm not sure in what world all these fruits are seasonal simultaneously. I attribute it to the dual ocean breeze but for someone who loves fruit more than other foods, and whose mother-in-law and daughter who love it as much, the bounty was more than welcoming. 

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