This autumn, so-called Puntarelle will be harvested for the first time in the Palatinate. Pfalzmarkt producer Ralf Weber from Schifferstadt is behind this: "I am a big fan of Italy and as a passionate vegetable farmer I have of course always tried out as many unusual varieties as possible, even on my private vacations. This is how I came across the Puntarelle." Botanically, however, this extraordinary vegetable has very little to do with asparagus and its slightly bitter taste is more reminiscent of chicory.
Ralf Weber is proud of his regional exotics. © Pfalzmarkt eG
This year, when Weber was looking for a product that would fit in well with a gap in his cultivation plan, he decided on Puntarelle. "Cultivation is still very small-scale, at one third of an acre. There's a lot to learn about this variety and it's still quite 'original'. As the vegetable is quite unknown, there are no commercial breeding programs to ensure uniform growth and optimized taste.
But this is one of the advantages: "Puntarelle has a slightly bitter taste, and that is very unusual. This makes it interesting for people who are looking for a slightly different product. This traditional vegetable is very versatile in its preparation and is appreciated there as an important ingredient in many regional cuisines. Puntarella - as it is called in Italy - can be prepared as a salad, for example, or tossed briefly in a pan with sugar, salt and butter."
© Pfalzmarkt eG
In cultivation, Puntarelle is quite demanding. It loves nutrient-rich soils and needs a lot of warmth in the growing phase. In the Palatinate it finds almost ideal growing conditions. "The best sowing time is midsummer with nice warm temperatures," Weber continues. "Heat was not a problem in the first growing trial, and the water requirement was also kept within limits."
Puntarelle is then harvested from the fall until the winter. However, it cannot tolerate extreme frost. As part of the trial cultivation, Ralf Weber therefore cultivates his Puntarelle outdoors and under a foil covering. "The first cultivation comparison shows that Puntarelle from outdoor cultivation has slightly more bitter substances. With a protective roof over the lush green, the leaves become more tender and the slightly bitter taste more subtle.
Visually, Puntarelle is reminiscent of dandelions. The heads grow to about 50-60cm in size. © Pfalzmarkt eG
The increasing consumer demand for vegetarian and vegan staple foods, as well as the tendency towards "old" vegetable varieties were additional arguments for Weber to opt for Puntarelle. Professional gastronomers are also looking for new old varieties that are versatile and healthy as well. Therefore, the actual distribution via Pfalzmarkt eG will start within the next few days.
It is not so easy to bring such an unknown product to the market. "Some extraordinary products are already known from ethnic cuisine or among young people. Unfortunately, Puntarelle does not have that yet. Whether young or old; hardly anyone knows it. The first harvest this year will therefore be used to bring the vegetable closer to the retailers in the region, hopefully next year you will be able to buy Puntarelle in the supermarket."
For more information:
Ralf und Thomas Weber GbR
Im Hellwich 10
Tel.: +49 6235 92530