Remember the slogan “If you like fruit, eat it all!”. We came back to mind as soon as we entered the warehouse of La Nuova Miriam Frutta, the fruit and vegetable wholesale of Conversano, in the province of Bari, which supplies a large part of Puglia.
In Conversano, among the colors and aromas of fresh fruit and vegetables
We are here to interview Angelo Solfrizzi, the sales manager who does the honors leading us between fruit and vegetable platforms and platforms and in the cold rooms where the temperature is remarkably low and the workers wander around with hats and gloves as if it were full winter.
Temperatures outside instead continue to be mild, even above the seasonal average, so Angelo explains, at the moment there is a vast range of fruit in stock, from summer to seasonal, like the grape of strictly Apulian production.
In the first cell intense and almost stunning is the smell of apples: Golden, Golden Delicious and Gala, all from Trentino. From the Valle d’Itria come the small red apples that, seen in this way, seem quite insignificant.
The surprise, in fact, reveals it inside. If you cut it, you discover that this apple has a blood pulp and is red inside too! As we taste it, we learn that this particular variety has really special characteristics: the fruit is crunchy and tasty with a pleasantly sour note and at the same time a hint of sweetness.
The taste reminds me of the azaroles I used to pick up when I was a child climbing on slender trees: an ancient fruit that makes me causes a slight melancholy. That linked to the desire to relive moments of the past in which I was really very happy and carefree. But nostalgia lasts a moment. We have to continue our tour in the other cell where the boxes of kiwi and pear are housed, which come entirely from foreign markets. The production of Italian kiwis has not yet reached maturity so now they come from New Zealand, while pears have suffered a drop in our country due to the attacks of the Asian bug.
We listen carefully to what we are told and we treasure it because we have so much to learn!
One of the few things we already know is that apples must be on their own and above all they cannot be kept in the same cold room as kiwis: since they produce ethylene, a gaseous plant hormone that stimulates fruit ripening. My dad had taught me that he would pick up the slightly unripe khaki to avoid being caught by birds and then ripen them in contact with apples.
The colors that surround us are very hot and the orange of the pumpkins stands ready to be sold at the Halloween party. On the subject of sales, we ask who the major customers of La Nuova Miriam Frutta are. Angelo replies that the goods are addressed to the markets, restaurants and greengrocers in a very large area given that Conversano is a reference center for fruit and vegetables.
The Iacovazzo family boasts thirty years of activity in this sector and with this wealth of experience on its shoulders in 2016, La Nuova Miriam Frutta was born with a new company name and in a new location. But with the responsibility of always, to understand what the customers’ needs are, even by including in their catalog new products such as exotic fruit, but not only papaya and avocado, the best known.
The latest trend is pomelo, a citrus fruit originating from Asia, with extraordinary properties. This fruit, in fact, is a treasure trove of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other substances that make it a true ally of wellness and health. Angelo shows it to us: it looks like a grapefruit, although he assures us it has a much more intense smell and a sweeter taste. But how is it used in the kitchen? Meanwhile, it is necessary to eliminate both the outer skin and the white membrane inside. Then it can be eaten alone or used to enrich salads or give an extra touch to fish-based first and second courses or to prepare desserts, granitas and sorbets.
Our journey through the world through the colors and flavors of fruit and fresh vegetables continues among the red, green, yellow and violet of peppers, aubergines and tomatoes from Sicily, the fragrant spices and “goodies” loved by the chef like black garlic, obtained through a fermentation process in which the bulbs are kept cool for 30 days in a humid environment and then left to oxidize for 45 days. In this way, black and soft segments are obtained which have twice the antioxidants of fresh garlic and a sweeter taste than white garlic with an aftertaste similar to that of licorice.
Meanwhile, the comings and goings between platforms and forklifts that quickly move the boxes from one side to the other continues around us. The atmosphere, despite the fact that the work starts here early in the morning, is relaxed and pleasant and smiles and greetings are not lacking between those who arrive to load and those who leave once the goods have been unloaded.
Our “immersion” in this interesting local reality is over and we come back home with our wedding favor: a beautiful and heavy cucurbita maxima, the traditional orange-colored pumpkin ready to be transformed in a few days for the Halloween party, in the classic lantern carved from the monstrous shape.