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Digital Subscriptions > Italia! > Aug 2019 > Top of the Crops

Top of the Crops

Christine Smallwood talks to Paolo Arrigo about his favourite Italian veg for growing at home in the UK
To harvest garlic, wait until the leaves have started to wither, lift it on a warm day and then leave it to dry in the sunshine

Last month we met Paolo Arrigo and heard about his company, Seeds of Italy, which imports regional and commissioned varieties from Franchi Seeds in Bergamo. This month we are going to look at how we can use those seeds to grow plants. We could all eat well with this assortment, but Paolo is keen to point out that he finds that the British are “the best at sowing in the spring and the worst at growing seasonally”. He urges us to remember that we can sow something every single month of the year – even if it’s just garlic, or perhaps cress on the windowsill. Good luck with your growing!

Garlic

“Today, less than one per cent of the garlic in Britain is British. Three quarters of all the garlic in the UK comes from China. Now, that’s not as strange as it sounds, because that’s where it originated, but the problem is that a lot of it comes over for reasons of cost rather than quality – while the garlic from northern China is quite good, that from southern China is not.

“The varieties that we stock are, unsurprisingly, mainly Italian: the Bianca Veneto, the Rossa di Sulmona from the Abruzzo region – and we have French garlic as well, because don’t forget that borders may stop people, but they don’t stop plants.

“Garlic is so easy to grow, but it’s important that you don’t plant supermarket garlic as you don’t know its provenance or if it has any resistance to disease. Note that if you put garlic in the fridge, it makes that little green shoot, and that’s because you sow it in the cold, usually October to January, and it needs six weeks of really cold weather to get started.

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About Italia!

This is the month of Ferragosto, the festival on the 15th of August celebrated throughout Italy, (also in San Marino and the canton of Ticino in Switzerland, fact fans…). If you’ve been in Italy in August, you’ll know the kind of festive mood the country is in, and you’ll find it in this issue of Italia! too!