The editorial staff of GardaConcierge presents its readers with a new guide – an ideal means for learning more about local products in the area of Lake Garda. The guide will also disclose the secrets of regional cuisine. Here you can find all the local products worth tasting and hard to find elsewhere, because they are only produced in the Lake Garda area.
“Olio Garda DOP” Olive Oil
The olive tree is one of the most rooted plants of the area, with its presence dating back to antiquity. This is how extra virgin olive oil became one of the most important ingredients in local dishes and the Mediterranean cuisine in general. The “Olio Garda DOP” olive oil is produced in various areas in the provinces of Trento, Verona, Mantua and Brescia. The “Casaliva”, “Frantoio” and “Leccino” olives are the types of olives mostly used in production. The Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies has officially recognised the importance of this business activity: the “Consortium for the Protection of the Extra Virgin Olio Garda DoP Olive Oil” was awarded a prize for its commitment to the improvement and continuity of olive farming. The “Olio Garda DOP” olive oil is not only distributed nationwide, but also in Europe and the United States. Its success testifies to the top quality of the product, which is fully produced in the Lake Garda area.
Below, we will present crop plants and citrus fruits, fruits and vegetables from the region surrounding Lake Garda.
Asparagus from Rivoli Veronese
Although asparagus is grown on different soils in the province of Verona, white asparagus from Rivoli Veronese is the most famous sort, with a limited and exclusive production. Its distinctive white colour results from its growth beneath the soil, far from the sunlight. During Rivoli’s asparagus festival in the first week of May, this vegetable plays the starring role and is an ingredient in various dishes.
Broccolini from Custoza
A small plant with a short, virtually non-existent stalk and a few leaves grows in Verona’s surroundings, a bit further south, in Custoza – broccolini from Custoza. This vegetable is only grown in a few areas of the ward of Custoza: hand sowing takes place between the end of June and the first days of July, harvesting from November to February. In the months of January and February, broccolini can be tasted and bought at the Custoza festival. We would also like to draw your attention to this recipe with purely Veronese ingredients: risotto with broccolini from Custoza and Monte Veronese cheese.
Broccoli from Torbole
The favourable climate on the northern shore of Lake Garda is an important factor in planting broccoli in Torbole. This unique plant has a little more sophisticated flavour than the rest of the wild cabbage group. Broccoli from Torboli is reaped from the end of November to February. Every year, more than 30.000 specimen are produced, with the seeds being passed on in the families of market gardeners.
Onion from Sermide
In the town of Sermide, province of Mantua, close to the shore of the Po river, the “onion from Sermide” is produced. The soil is fertile due to the river nearby, favouring the onions’ growth. There are two varieties: a slightly sweeter variety grown on soils with high sand content, and a spicier one from soils with high clay content. Regional cuisine could not do without these straw yellow onions since the Middle Ages.
Lemon Houses on Lake Garda
Lemon houses are a characteristic of Lake Garda, yearly attracting visitors in large numbers. The area surrounding Limone in the province of Brescia prides itself in being the northernmost area of citrus fruit production. The production on the western shore of Lake Garda goes back a long way, dating back to the 13th century; with the production of lemon houses flourishing until the second half of the 19th century, when the North could no longer compete with the South due to higher manufacturing costs and a resulting rise in prices.
Sweet Chestnuts from Drena
This unique nut is also from the area around Lake Garda: on the northern shore of Lake Gada, in Drena, about 15 km from Riva del Garda, there are several hectares of forest, consisting mainly in chestnut trees. These chestnut trees produce the sweet chestnuts from Drena, dark brown chestnuts with a sweet and intensive taste and a form resembling a heart. Just a short while ago, a group of chestnut farmers have decided to sell this rather small nut. During an exhibition held in Drena in October, chestnuts are offered for tastings and sale.
Canary Melon from Mantua
The canary melon from Mantua has been awarded the label of protected geographic designation of origin in November 2015. This vegetable grows in 22 towns in the province of Mantua and 8 in the province of Cremona. It is produced in the greenhouse or on the field, sowing takes place in the months from March to April and harvesting between June and August. The canary melon weighs 1-1,5 kilogramme on average, and has an intense flavour and a sweet taste. It is served as a summer dish and prepared as an appetizer, a main course or dessert.
Radicchio from Verona
In the Verona area, another product with a protected geographic designation of origin is grown – radicchio from Verona. The vegetable has red, white-veined leaves and an oval head. Radicchio from Verona grows on alluvial and sandy soils, such as the one in the southern part of the province of Verona. Apart from its slightly bitter taste, its crunchy leaves are another characteristic: radicchio from Verona is traditionally served raw as well as cooked.
Celery from Verona
Celery from Verona is also known as knob celery (it. sedano rapa) due to its thick root that evokes a “rapa” or kohlrabi. The taste of celery from Verona differs greatly from kohlrabi, however, and rather resembles traditional celery, even if a little less intense. After removing the skin, knob celery can be eaten raw as well as cooked. Harvesting takes place from mid-August to the first frost, and sale from the first harvest to mid-March.
Plums from Dro
Plums from Dro are a product labelled with a controlled designation of origin (DOP) grown in this town in the province of Trento. They have a characteristic oval form, with purple skin covered by a ceraceous and whitish layer, typical of fruits such as plums and grapes. The pulp has a yellow, nearly greenish colour. The plums’ taste ranges from sweet to sour.
Saffron from Pozzolengo
Saffron growing in the southern area of Lake Garda surrounding Pozzolengo (province of Brescia) dates back only a short time, with production starting in 2001. The product is hand-grown in all phases of cultivation – from harvest to the separation of the stamens to roasting -, making this spice an unexcelled quality product. Saffron from Pozzolengo plays an important role in Lombard cuisine: saffron biscuits and “sciacciatine mantovane”, a crunchy flatbread from Mantua, are traditionally from the region. Saffron is also used when preparing risotto and other main dishes.
Following the crop plants, cheese is the next stop on our culinary tour through the Lake Garda area.
Formaggella Cheese from Tremosine
Formaggella cheese from Tremosine, a soft cheese marked by a cross, is produced on the northeastern shore of Lake Garda. The milk from which the cheese is made, comes from a breed in the high plateau of Tremosine, which is part of the Parco Alto Garda in the province of Brescia. Formagella cheese from Tremosine is a fat cheese of short or medium maturing time, with a soft, thin and straw yellow surface and a ligher and softer texture.
Monte Veronese Cheese
Monte Veronese cheese is another dairy product from the opposite shore of Lake Garda. It is based on cow’s milk from Monte Baldo and the area surrounding the Lessinia mountains. Monte Veronese is a cheese with a protected designation of origin (DOP), of which two types are sold: the first, made from whole milk, is a semi-hard cheese with a short maturing time of at least 30 days; the second, made from skimmed milk, is a semi-fat cheese in form of a hard or semi-hard cheese with a maturing time of at least 90 days.