Six IGP certifications, 12 Slow Food heritage food ratings, and roughly 80 PAT (“traditional food products”) endorsements succinctly sum up the wealth of Piedmontese produce. This is the region that grows the incomparable vegetables that go into the bagna caoda, the intense sauce made from a base of anchovies and garlic, which is typically eaten in winter but delicious year round. Good food and company characterize Bagna Cauda Day, Piedmont’s exclusive gastronomical ritual that is attracting food experts on an international scale. A variety of other fairs throughout the year celebrate the region’s extraordinary variety of quality vegetables: Nizza Monferrato cardoons, Carmagnola peppers, the asparagus of Santena, Poirino and Borgo d’Ale, Andezeno onions, Cervere leeks and the pumpkins of Piozzo and Castellazzo Bormida.
From the white Genoese quarantina to the tubers of the Alta Valle Belbo – which runs through the provinces of Asti, Alessandria and Cuneo – and the mountain varieties of the Susa, Chisone, Lanzo and Cuneo valleys, potatoes are an indispensable ingredient for traditional dishes: most of all they are used for gnocchi, which are served in ways that vary from locality to locality (such as rabaton in the province of Alessandria and ghenefle in the Susa Valley). Beans from Cuneo and Saluggia – in the province of Vercelli – are another delicacy, especially when served with rice in a steaming panissa (in the Vercelli region) or paniscia (the version of Novara).
On both the plains and in the hills can be found a great variety of native apples and pears, such as the small Martin Sec and the Madernassa of Roero, which are often cooked in wine. At the TuttoMele apple fair you’ll discover Cavour, the true capital of apple growing at the gates of Turin, while next to the Vezzolano Abbey you can visit the flourishing orchard that was created through an important project for the recovery of old apple and pear varieties. Spring and summer are a feast of colors, from the red of the cherries of Pecetto Torinese and Dogliani (in the province of Cuneo) and the strawberries of Tortona and Volpedo (province of Alessandria), to the dark purple of the Ramassin – the small plums typical of the southwest of the region – and the amber of the peaches of Canale, in the area of Roero (which are also tasty when baked and filled with amaretti and chocolate).
In the fall, IGP chestnuts abound in the Susa Valley and at the national chestnut fair (the Fiera nazionale del Marrone in Cuneo), while the round and “gentle” varieties of Piedmontese hazelnuts dominate the Alta Langa: in particular, Cortemilia pays homage to them at a special feast (or sagra) and at the Hazelnut Bike Festival. Piedmontese cuisine further makes use of aromatic wild herbs, grown especially in the valleys of the province of Cuneo and in Pancalieri, the “green island” outside of Turin from which comes 50% of Italy’s entire production of medicinal herbs. This small town is above all known for its peppermint, which has numerous uses, from thirst-quenching syrups to organic cosmetic products.
For a complete overview, see www.piemonteagri.it