Bonnie Camo MD Natural Medicine Homeopathy
As promised, I am now writing from my new home in Trebisacce, Calabria, south Italy. I arrived Sunday Sept 13 at Fiumicino, the airport for Rome. Fiumicino means “little river”, and is actually a canal built by the ancient Romans, to bring food and supplies from the sea to Rome. It is still in use 2000 years later, full of fishing boats. The ancient Romans were master engineers, and built to last. Some of the aqueducts they built to bring fresh water from the hills to Rome are also still in use.
I will be writing from here about the real Mediterranean diet and lifestyle, as lived in this small fishing village on the Ionian Sea, the part of the Mediterranean filling the “arch” of the Italian boot. My husband came here to live six months ago, when he retired from his career as a bridge engineer, although he is still working from here as a consultant by internet for his old company. He had planted a garden in our yard and harvested copious tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, yellow melons, and watermelons.
For breakfast here we usually have fruit and some “pecorino” cheese, made from sheep’s milk. (Pecora means sheep) We bought some wonderful locally grown peaches, much more flavorful and colorful than even organic peaches in the US. They don’t sell “organic” produce here, but they still use traditional growing methods that don’t rely on pesticides. They eat locally grown produce in season. Of course, the growing season is much longer here in the South.
The do have supermarkets even here in this little town, but most people shop at separate little shops each specializing in one thing, fruits and vegetables, cheese, breads, or meats. There is a fish store on every block, with dozens of kinds of fresh-caught fish, shellfish, octopus, squid, etc, caught by local fishermen. There is also a farmer’s market in town a couple of days a week. Every yard has a few olive trees. We picked about 2 quarts of olives from two of the olive trees in our yard this morning. We have eight olive trees (called ulivo), but most of them are still too small to bear fruit. We are going to soak the olives in salt water to remove the bitterness so we can eat them. Olives right from the tree are extremely bitter and impossible to eat. Olives, of course are known for their health-giving properties, like lowering cholesterol. Even olive leaves are used (and sold in capsules in health food stores in America) for boosting the immune system.
We also have an apricot and plum trees. Asparagus and artichokes grow wild in our yard. There is a huge agave plant growing on the railroad embankment behind our house. Agave extract is sold in your local health food store as a natural sweetener with a low glycemic index. We plan to put in some lemon, orange and tangerine trees next spring. Perhaps also figs, persimmons, and pomegranate trees, and of course, grapevines along the fence. We hope to have a greenhouse soon, to grow salad all winter. Our neighbor on the east side has geese, and the one on the west has chickens. We plan to build a chicken coop and raise our own eggs.
Wild oregano grows on the eastern slopes of the hills in the near-by Pollino National Park. Oregano, besides flavoring pizza and pasta sauce, has medicinal and health-building qualities and has been described as “the cure in the cupboard”. It is also drunk as a curative teas, or tisane. Most culinary herbs grow wild in Italy and other parts of Europe, and were brought to the US by early settlers. Rosemary grows into a big bush and can even be used as a hedge. Rosemary is a powerful antioxidant, once used to preserve meat, in the days before refrigeration. It is good for the brain and helps preserve memory.
Wild greens like dandelions, chicory, arugula, broccoli raab, raddicchio, and Romaine lettuce, once disparaged in the US as “some weed the Italians eat”, of course grow wild here in Italy, and are now sold in the US at fancy prices in gourmet shops. Wild greens tend to have a stronger, sometimes slightly bitter flavor, and are much higher in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals than cultivated salad greens. Iceberg lettuce, as I’m sure you all know, is virtually devoid of nutritional value.
We have been swimming in the sea, which is right in front of our house. We can probably absorb the minerals in sea water through the skin, if we don’t wash it off right away. And of course, we get plenty of sun to make our own vitamin D.