Tomatoes as Sweet as Candy

In Praiano local biodiversity evolved vertically and lead to very characteristic products

By Baldassarre Fiorentino*

Nestled between the sea and the Lattari Mountains, with altitude that varies from zero to 1200 feet, Praiano offers an ideal terrain for cultivating olive trees, citrus groves, vineyards, citrus vegetable gardens.

In the course of centuries, local biodiversity has evolved vertically, which lead to the development of very characteristic products. In any form or recipe, our potatoes are extraordinarily rich in taste, while our tomatoes, traditionally brought to maturity with an almost total absence of water, can be as sweet as candy.

Walking through the town, apart from the small, private lemon groves, you will also notice ubiquitous small pergola vineyards typical of the Amalfi Coast. Higher up, in small plots stubbornly carved out of the mountain rock, there are olivella groves - the biotype of olive typical of Southern Italy.

In the past, every family had its own production of wine and oil. Today only the most tenacious people continue to produce them. The wines are rich in minerals, partly because of the volcanic soil, and low in alcohol but well-structured and well-balanced. The oil is usually spicy and fruity with a slight hint of lemon and blueberry.

Both products have distinct flavors, strongly linked to the local terrain where they grow.

Typified by kerosene lamps and nets of coarse cotton, the fishing tradition is as ancient as the agricultural one. A local custom was that of the mangiata, a term now known only among the elderly for the communal distribution of the catch - a bit for everyone. Even today the sea, that can become hundreds of meters deep just a few yards from the coastline, is rich in squid, blue fish (anchovies, sardines etc.), octopus and red shrimp.

Our large wealth of agricultural and fishing traditions has given us many recipes, handed down from generation to generation and kept alive by local chefs that rework them through modern culinary techniques.

We have many recipes for both “land” and “sea” dishes, but also some that mix both, such as the traditional dish of totani e patate alla praianese, a squid and potato dish that Praiano restaurants offer in their menu to keep alive the rich, local culinary tradition.

Another classic is the migliaccio. Historically associated with the Carnival holidays, it is arguably the richest dish of our cuisine, truly full of goodness. Like all winter dishes, it was created as a way to use the remaining parts of a pig, once the sausages, lard and fresh meat were obtained. It’s typical of our kitchen, but impossible to find in restaurants. A great opportunity to try migliaccio is at the festival of the Luminaria di San Domenico, when the it is prepared and offered by local families the night of the Degustazione of via Masa (see video).

Migliaccio can be paired with a local organic, or biological as we call it here, Tramonti wine, or some good, vintage Fiani Avellinesi.

* Baldassarre Fiorentino is a chef, a sommelier and producer of quality wines.

Amalfi Coasting is a “pet project” of a community organization started in the town of Praiano in 2013. We developed this web site as a tool to invite people from all over the world to get to know our town, discover its "secrets" and embrace it not just as a great tourist destination but also as a community, with its people, its traditions and all of its offerings.

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