An impulse purchase of the foreign kind

While traveling recently, I wandered into a store that sells almost exclusively all things Italian. From homemade pasta to gelato to wine to incredible cheeses, it’s a little bit of Italy without the hefty plane ticket.

Italian seedsI have always thought of this particular place as a purveyor of the makings of a feast, but have never extended that impression to the kind of feast made from garden goods. But on this particular visit, I found myself face to face with a giant display of Italian herb and vegetable seeds.

I should note that, while seeds remain a bargain compared to the cost of actual produce at the store/co-op/market, these were not the world’s cheapest seeds. But I found myself unable to resist the musical seed names: basilico a foglie di lattuga sounds so much more romantic than lettuce-leaf basil. Rucola coltivata? Way better than arugula. Basilico violetto aromatico sounds like a character in an opera. And bis di lattughe da taglio? Sounds like I couldn’t just make salad out of it…I could date it, too.

Really, what does it matter that I can’t understand any of the growing instructions, either? It’s not like that has correlated, for me, into anything resembling growing success.

And at least I can guess what “Di facile coltivazione anche su balconi e terrazzi”means. It means, “Your handsome Italian gardener will plant this for you while you sit on your balcony or terrace and sip a glass of Montepulciano. It will be easy.”


16 Responses to “An impulse purchase of the foreign kind”

  1. 1 Jen-Ben February 19, 2008 at 8:31 am

    An Italian gardener who looks like Sawyer and calls you La Bella Chairman Mao?

  2. 2 Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) February 19, 2008 at 8:36 am

    A handsome Italian gardener — now, wouldn’t that be lovely? I remember bringing seeds home from my first trip to Italy — I smuggled them inside my laundry bag, I think, so the customs inspectors wouldn’t confiscate them! I can just imagine how beautiful these herbs and vegetables will be in your garden this summer.

  3. 3 inadvertentgardener February 19, 2008 at 8:57 am

    Jen-Ben, exactly!

    Lydia, it would be, um, QUITE lovely. I’m glad you were able to get those Italian seeds through customs. Although, of course, I don’t condone illegal activity. :-)

  4. 4 Jen(aside) February 19, 2008 at 10:12 am

    Ooh, Sawyer. Num.

    I can’t wait for this snow to end so we can get our gardens going!

  5. 5 steven February 19, 2008 at 10:38 am

    I can’t predict what your yield is going to be, but from personal experience you’ll be planting from the package of arugula for a couple seasons.

    As far as the smuggling goes, the memory of Customs confiscating my seeds last Fall is still vivid and I haven’t gotten over it. humph.

  6. 6 inadvertentgardener February 19, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    Jen(aside), no doubt…more Sawyer, less snow! That’s becoming my mantra.

    Steven, I’m sorry your seeds got swiped. If what you say is true for that packages of arugula, would you like me to send you some? Just let me know. Of course, it’s not even the same as hand-carried from Italy…

  7. 7 kate smudges February 19, 2008 at 10:55 pm

    Love your translation – it has such a good ring to it. I’d be totally seduced by the names too.

  8. 8 inadvertentgardener February 20, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    Kate, glad it’s not just me! :-)

  9. 9 gillie February 21, 2008 at 3:08 am

    I can taste the salad, smell the wine and see the gardener ….. oops I’ve woken up and they have all gone! I love your translation and I think I have a largish collection of seeds acquired in Cyprus (no idea whatsoever about the the instructions)but I went overboard last summer in Cornwall at the Lost Gardens of Heligan and the Eden Project and my poor greenhouse will never in a million years hold even a fraction of them. So why am I reading and re-reading the Sarah Raven and Thompson & Morgan catalogues …. just in case there is something I have missed?!

  10. 10 Eda Muller February 21, 2008 at 10:04 am

    We are farmers in California who grow these seeds and are Distributors to sell these wonderful Franchi Seeds here in the United States as well. Just let us know if you need more. They are a fantastic product. Great germination, generous amounts of seed and they taste the way food is supposed to taste! Good luck in growing……
    Farmer John and Eda

  11. 12 inadvertentgardener February 22, 2008 at 5:41 am

    Gillie, well, from what I can tell, you can never have too many seeds!

    Farmer John and Eda, good to know I can get more of these seeds if I want — that’s terrific! And I’m glad to get an endorsement of them. I can’t wait to be able to get them in the ground.

  12. 13 Marilyn February 26, 2008 at 9:01 pm

    Please tell me where you found this store and the name of this wonderful place! How far is it from Iowa?

  13. 14 inadvertentgardener March 2, 2008 at 9:35 am

    Marilyn, unfortunately, it’s in the DC suburbs, so it’s pretty far from Iowa. It’s called, appropriately, The Italian Store.

  14. 15 livesimply2livewell July 30, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    I’ve just started a blog about living simply and living well. My garden, which features Franchi sementi varieties, is an important part of it. It is absolutely thriving! Latest post is about the tomatoes. More coming on other vegetables, memories of being in Italy, recipes, etc.

    I’ve brought many packets of seeds back from Italy – commercially grown, sealed as purchased – and customs has never given me trouble. Of course, customs has never asked to see anything I have ever brought back from out of country.

    The meaning of “Di facile coltivazione anche su balconi e terrazzi” is more like, “Also easy to grow [in containers] on a balcony or terrace” – one assumes, the work still being done by that handsome gardener, working closer to the lounging person on the terrace with the glass of red in hand!

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