Growing up in Italy, I was brought up with vegetables and fruit. As a child, I was thought how to to pick up the ripest tomatoes (smell) and the sweetest melons (smell, look, weight and tap). We were also supposed to know all different variaties of a tomato and which one to use when (salad, pizza, pasta).
With that background, it’s impossible to enjoy a cold and sterile Dutch supermarket so I feel lucky that Jan understands my need for buying 35kg of fruit and vegetables a week, at a wonderful Turkish supermarket called Helal et Gida. He has learned to pick the loveliest aubergines and zucchini, how to smell and look at things. How to lift 8 bags up to three flight of stairs weekly…
We only buy ‘products’ with one ingredient (except cheese, pasta and bread which are allowed to have a few more, but only natural ones) and make everything ourself. This is wonderful but it also requires a lot of space. After months of using pans and plates to spread out our weekly groceries, I came up with the idea of making a small vegetable stall for the kitchen. Jan loved it and we started designing.
The idea is very simple: get yourself enough crates to store your veggies, choose the length of your sides accordingly AND make sure there is enough space between the crates to take out a melon or a pumpkin, a wooden bar for bananas, a few boards for the bottom and wheels (it makes it so much more practical). How cute would this look in a Jamie Oliver or Ottolenghi restaurant, but more importantly, EVERYONE with children should have one. It’s so much more fun to choose what you want to eat when all is displayed in such an inviting way.
I have called it the Frutteria. In Italian you usually call a vegetable shop a fruttivendolo (frutta + vendolo = a seller of fruit); the suffix -eria means that it is a shop so I liked that option more.
Anyone interested can contact us but you can go ahead and make this yourself, I would love to see this in every household one day.
A few tips for everyone interested:
- Recycle a magazine or use teatowels to cover your crate. It absorbs moisture and if you happen to miss a rotting apple, the wood from your crate is not infected.
- We did not paint of varnish the frutteria as we wanted to keep a rustic look and it keeps contamination to a minimum
- The part of the fruit or vegetable that is attached to the plant, always tells you the most about its freshness. Keep those visible and choose accordingly
- If you want to make sure you get enough vitamins, minerals and other good things from your food, vary in color.
- Keep the frutteria out of the heat or sunlight, it helps keep it all fresh
- An old farmer on Tenerife taught me to keep your potatoes in a towel, they do not like light (well, actually they do but it turns them into a plant)
- Anything leafy should be eaten first
- Melons can ripe after picking but will rarely get sweet. Choose the right one by smelling (should smell sweet), touching (never soft, never hard, always a bit elastic), looking (no weird patches and around its leafstalk you should see a small crack) and tapping (it should be heavy and give a muffled sound).