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On the Land in Umbria - Black Celery in October

Anne Robichaud

Sagra del Sedano Nero (celery festival) in Trevi, Umbria in late October

Because Trevi's celery is not just any celery, this tiny Umbrian hill town dedicates its most important annual festival to the apium graveoleus, a dark celery variety cultivated in Italy only in the outskirts of Trevi. Cultivated here for centuries (and nowadays by fewer and fewer farmers), the so-called "black celery" has recently been designated one of 15 IGP products of Umbria (the black truffle of Norcia, the Cannara onions and the saffron of Cascia are among others). IGP - "Indicazxione Geografica Protetta" - is a term which indicates that the product may be grown ONLY in a specific restricted area. So limited is the black celery production that virtually all of the annual cultivation is sold in Trevi during the Sagra del Sedano Nero (celery festival). As very late autumn is traditionally the period of the pig slaughtering here in Umbria, this sagra is held along with the Sagra della Salsiccia (sausage festival).

With friends at the celery festival

A friend and I joined "the locals" last Sunday in the main square of charming Trevi for grilled sausage sandwiches, local vino rosso and tastes of all sorts of Umbrian delicacies, from varieties of pecorino (sheep's milk cheese) to wild boar salami to celery pat to sweets made with freshly-pressed grape juice. And of course we bought our traditional three bunches of celery (that number three - sacred in so many cultures and as I write, myriads of associations in Italian folklore and cultural traditions come to mind). We had hoped to eat in one of the medieval taverne (best translated as "inn") but all three (one for each terziere - section - of the town) were overflowing with jubilant groups of friends, dining on varieties of celery dishes and other autumn specialties in the stone-vaulted medieval cellars.

Last night, my husband Pino and I were more successful; we had dinner in the taverna (vaulted ceilings, old brick floor and once an olive mill) of il Terziere Matigge and enjoyed the company as much as the food! Rina, the cook, shared her recipe of celery bruschetta. Sara who served us (like all, she is a volunteer and has worked all day in local factory) made sure we had generous portions of the celery Parmesan and another server, Simone, talked enthusiastically about his exhausting race in the Palio dei Terzieri which launches Trevi's annual October festivities early in the month.

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Anne Robichaud lives near Assisi and gives lectures and tours. www.annesitaly.com

© Anne Robichaud, 2005. Do not republish without permission.

This essay was first published on Anne's website www.annesitaly.com. Edited by Slow Travel.

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