The past year, which we’ve largely spent within the four walls of our homes, has proven to be a big minimizer of our chances to get out and have fun in a group, and seems to have also sedated our sense of adventure. Nearly all of us have turned into virtuous masterminds, and have given ourselves over to cooking at home more often. Almost all of us have moved towards making cooking more fun thanks to the need to pull together 3 meals a day at home. When you have the chance to test out your chops on new, exciting, flavorful recipes, cooking can become a more engaging, rewarding experience rather than being stuck in the realm of simple domestic necessity.
As we try to limit our forays outside of our four walls, the last year has seen a massive increase in groceries ordered from a distance (online). Our trusted providers have ranged from the grocery store giants, who have often had their websites crash from massive use and consultation, to the small neighborhood green-grocer shops. A new provider also is emerging: direct purchase from the farmers and producers themselves. The added benefit of ordering directly from the original sources has given us a sense of greater traceability within the local food supply chain, and helps us pay more conscious attention to our fresh food purchases.
Benefitting from both of these trends, home shopping delivery services have increased exponentially thanks to this new interest, and services that specialize in delivery of fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables have become ever more structured. The heart of this fruit and vegetable delivery service has kept its same the basic structure: when placing your order, you simply indicate the weight of your order based on the number of people within your family nucleus, and your producers putting together your order will provide you with a selection of seasonal, local products.
The fun part is the mystery of your box: produce selection remains up to those putting together your boxes and makes for a fun surprise when your vegetable and fruit boxes are delivered to your door!
IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE BOX
One of Italy’s pioneers in the fresh produce delivery service was Cortilia, who began their service in 2011. Cortilia has always placed a high premium on and commitment to providing clients with high-quality products based on immediate supply and availability.
Cortilia’s website has since evolved, allowing for a more complete shopping experience, including household detergents and pet foods. The origins of this service however, was based on a weekly box of freshly harvested, seasonal fruits and vegetables. The method used to prepare these boxes was based on a variable box size delivered directly to your home once a week or once every two weeks, relative to your preferences. Keeping in mind personal tastes, an omission of up to three vegetables for each order is permitted (I have a personal black-list that includes red radicchio lettuce and chard).
THE ROOTS OF THE “HIVE”
A more bottom-up, or grassroots, approach towards maintaining an agricultural stance of the producer-to-client supply process is addressed by the L’Alveare che dice sì. Born in 2015 as a younger, more technologically-advanced version of the classic Solidarity Purchasing Groups, the process of getting fresh seasonal produce in your home is relatively simple. By entering your delivery address (in this case, your home address) onto the group’s website, you can find nearby neighborhood “Hives.” Once you’ve located your closest Hive, select amongst their offerings what best suits your needs, and retrieve your order at designated times and dates.
In the pre-pandemic era, a solution of this kind also provided a social interaction we now know is so crucial to a healthy society. This pick-up and overall structure allowed direct interaction between yourself and your local producers, although for those who felt more hermit-like, some Hives do deliver door-to-door.
In recent years, new players have emerged. Growth has proven to be a rapid, organic process directly linkable to the consumer consumption changes attributable to the worldwide pandemic.
A newcomer on the scene, the Babaco Market's mission is focused on restricting fresh fruit and vegetable waste. Babaco selects fresh produce exclusively based on the presence of small aesthetic defects or other visual elements that make this produce incompatible with the needs of large-scale retail trade. It goes without saying that were it not for this intervention, these fresh fruits and veggies would otherwise be discarded.
Every Babaco box also includes local gourmet specialty creations from small local farmers and artisans. These speciality wares are all guaranteed to be produced following traditional methods and by local producers dedicated to safeguarding local Italian gastronomic traditions.
NEW DESCENTS INTO THE FIELD
Forced restaurant closures have obliged fresh produce suppliers to rethink sales models to avoid also succumbing to closures. POM Natura was born in March 2020 with the goal of making their wholesale produce available to private consumers. Fumagalli Danilo had been to this point, a leading vendor within the fresh produce wholesale market and dedicated exclusively to the catering and restaurant industry, so with a bit of restructuring within their company, this new reality was born: a new brand with 30 years of built-in experience.
THE EDUCATED CONSUMER
Educating ourselves regarding fruit and vegetable seasonality for those who grew up in the era of supermarket shopping, a world where tomatoes, zucchini, strawberries are perennially available, is not so easy.
November onwards can make you feel a bit restrained creatively, as you confront what the season offers: leafy vegetables with leathery, bitter stems. It can be an eye-opening experience to realize that the much-anticipated tomatoes don’t ripen with spring’s first sunny days, but instead come into full blossom only during a full summer season. But there is an upside once spring rolls around - during these warmer months heading towards summer, we can find lesser-know yet exquisite vegetables like agretti ("friar's beard"), garlic scapes (talli d’aglio), and puntarelle (chicory).
Our collective efforts at overcoming laziness can be rewarded on many fronts. With a little bit of creativity and dedication in our kitchens, we can be remunerated with fruits and vegetables that are richer in taste and nutrients as they require no additional energy to ripen. We find our costs lowered as there’s no need for storage or additional cultivation efforts. And finally, these elements are more eco-friendly and help lower our overall carbon footprints as the distance traveled between production lands and end consumer are much lower.
If you’ve enjoyed learning the ins-and-outs of seasonality in the fruit and vegetable world, be sure to read up with Mamablip’s Fruit and Vegetable blog posts. And if you love the idea of “wild” eating, be sure to read more with Andrea Grignaffini as he explores the world of Survivalism in the Kitchen. The healthy approach to daily diets continues with Francesca Ciancio’s exploration of the Mediterranean Diet and its role in helping the Italian population stay healthy and long-lived!
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