Four varies guide us through the seasons in four very different growing regions of Europe. The series presents succulent portraits of rare vegetables, their histories and their origins. Many of the plantations for these vegetables are in bad shape. We show the people with the passion and commitment to preserve these fruit and vegetable varieties.
Violet artichokes are a specialty from the Venetian Lagoon region, a unique landscape between the mainland and the sea. It is especially the plant's very first buds, the delicate 'castraure', that merchants can't seem to get enough of. In fact, they are so popular among Venetians that it's rare to find them outside of local markets. Thanks to their high cyarine content, this vegetable is also used as a natural remedy.
Growing at the edge of the Black Forest, the so-called 'Bühler plum' is a star that is in danger of being relegated. Unlike all the 'practical' new varieties it doesn't bear fruit until its eighth year – and these are more difficult to harvest because of the trees' height. But this plum variety can also count on the loyalty of many enthusiasts, including fruit farmers, gourmets and slow food activists. Will they manage, collectively, to save the 'Blue Queen' from extinction?
Mollar de Elche is a pomegranate variety with particularly soft and sweet seeds. This 'favorite fruit of the gods' has been cultivated for more than two millennia in this region to the South of Alicante. But it wasn't until it was discovered as a 'super food' with health-promoting properties that its cultivation once again became profitable. The Mollar is processed into juice, cosmetics and even medicines. Indeed, rich in antioxidants, it may even slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease.
The Ardèche is marked by centuries-old, terraced chestnut forests. Roasted or cooked, the fruits of these trees, Ardèche chestnuts, are considered a delicacy as soup, ragout, puree, gratin or pudding. The chestnut harvesting season spans the months of October and November when they are gathered by hand in work that is both tedious and difficult to eke out an existence from. Many of the plantations are in a bad state; moreover, a destructive pest from Japan has infested the trees, destroying almost half of the harvest. Fortunately, an antidote has been available since last year.