Zolle and the Red Garlic of Sulmona

Eat Well and Get Well in the Abruzzo

Zolle and the Red Garlic of Sulmona

When I was about 12 years old and living in America’s heartland, Illinois to be exact, I caught “sense” from the little village I lived in and had become convinced that all you needed to do to cook something “Eye-talian” was to add copious amounts of garlic and oregano to it.

Then I grew up. I found out that Italians don’t really use all that much garlic—and oregano is used in the south sparingly. Greeks, however…

Scratch that, I want you to know about Italy’s best garlic, the red garlic grown in the Valle Peligna around Sulmona. Perhaps the fine folks of Illinois were thinking of it just a little. There’s garlic here and not only is it good and pungent, it’s the best garlic in the world for what ails you. Really. And they do use it in their cooking. But there’s more:

This type of garlic is a must for those who believe in natural antibiotics to help fight off aliments; the garlic has some of the highest Allistatin concentrates found in the garlic & onion family – (this is the natural antibiotic found in this vegetable family and which thankfully hasn’t become resistant to drugs!) ~ Sulmona Red Garlic

How could ancient people live without the drugs that we pay through the nose for? The best drugs were right underfoot it turns out:

In conclusion it is observed that the information transferred between generations and studies made scientifically that garlic is effectively used in cardiovascular diseases as regulator of blood pressure and with dropper effects of it on glycaemia and cholesterol, against bacterial, viral, mycosis and parasitic infections. It’s also known that garlic is a wonderful plant having the properties of empowering immune system, anti-tumour and antioxidant ~ Antimicrobial Effect of Garlic (Allium sativum) and Traditional Medicine

And…according to Slow Food, a bulb has a one year shelf life if you store it right.

So if you plan a vacation in the Abruzzo, perhaps you can deduct your trip as a medical expense, eh?

But my story doesn’t end with the medical claims for a bulb.

Consider this: we’ve been seeing increasing numbers of stories about the horrendous food waste in “civilized” countries. Harvesting with big machines and as few workers as you can is a part of the voodoo economics of our “civilization” but it wasn’t always like that.

You see, in early May, about a month before it is harvested, the red garlic of Sulmona sends out a shoot that would become a flower that would begin to divert the flow of nourishment from the bulb. You don’t want that, so you go out early in the morning when it’s still a bit damp and pinch off that shoot.

And you throw it away save it, take it home, wash it and boil it in some vinegar to preserve it and you add some olive oil until you have a supply of…


I mean, why throw this fantastic bit of food in the dumpster? Once you have preserved your delicately flavored garlic shoots and bottled them, you can use them any time for appetizers or throw a handful into an omelet for a healthy meal. It’s brilliant.

A month later you harvest garlic that looks like any other. But peel back the skins, and the purplish-red will tell you that it’s the real thing: Aglio Rosso di Sulmona.

I feel better just writing this.

If You Go, Travel Planning Resources

Sulmona Travel Guide

Abruzzo Map & Travel Guide

More on Food in Italy

Lerici: Eating Fish in a cave, Dante, Underground War Shelters

The Taste of Sardinia

Ostaia De Banchi Restaurant Review

Savory Vegetable Pies

Bittersweet times in Rural Tuscany

Wine Travel

Zolle and the Red Garlic of Sulmona originally appeared on WanderingItaly.com , updated: Aug 28, 2022 © .

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