AYAMA MARKET PLACE

Ayama Market Place

Finding the flavours you’re used to cooking with, is hard as Italians living in South Africa. When first coming to South Africa, we struggled to find the correct vegetables to give us specific flavours we wanted in our food. This proved to be a problem, as Italian cuisine involves lots of flavours and needs to be carried out with precision. We took the bull by the horns on this project, and decided to just plant our own.

We started off small, just planting vegetables for our own use. We found that everything grows here, bigger and tastier, and of course, we were on cloud nine. After a few recipes shared with our South African friends, we realized that we cannot keep these flavours just for ourselves, so started the Ayama Market Place project. It will be your VERDURAIO (vegetable boutique) where you will learn how to harvest, clean, cook and preserve extraordinary Italian food.

ARTICHOKES

The word artichoke adds to the many stories and journeys we have navigated at Ayama.

Cultivated in over 50 varieties, artichokes came to Ayama in a bold, enthusiastic way, seeing its debut harvest in 2016 which produced stunning quality of artichokes, complimented by enveloping our fields with beautiful colours of violet and dark green during the winter season. During Spring, these “carciofo” (artichoke) develop into gorgeous bulky flowers adoring our fields with different hues of purple and green.

Being quite a foreign aphrodisiac to South Africa, the project brought a lot of excitement to the team, and with Attilio at the helm, we successfully continue to plant a half a hectare annually.

The best part of beauty is that which no picture can express is the feelings of cold, wet, winter mornings during harvest times, which does not take away from the beauty of admiring this immature flower, who’s head peaks out of its bushy, yet strangely organised leaves, guarding the flower like soldiers guarding its queen, giving you “il momento del carciofo”- “an artichoke moment”….

An artichoke is both beauty and brains, while being great to look at, artichokes have a high nutritional value, have anti-cancer potential, helps with heart disease, high blood pressure and so many other health benefits.

JERUSALEM ARTICHOKES

We believe that life brings people together for certain reasons.

We had a few Woolworths buyers over for lunch one afternoon to discuss the artichoke project. We cooked them an authentic Italian meal using fresh veggies straight from our garden. Amongst these vegetables was the Jerusalem Artichoke. Technically not a real artichoke, but rather a tuberous root of a type of sunflower, which carries the resemblance of ginger.

Also known as sun choke, this prebiotic has many health benefits, soothes joints and muscular injuries, and is extremely beneficial to those suffering from Diabetes.

We have planted the Jerusalem Artichokes this year. We look forward to sharing this with you end of May.

DURUM WHEAT

Pasta, historically referred to as “peasant food”, has become so popular in recent years that everybody makes it. However, pasta can be made in only Two ways. One – The Italian Way, and Two, – “How the rest of the world makes it Way”.

So, started our journey to find flour to make pasta, from Durum, here in South Africa. Mission impossible, locally made. Easy we said, let’s make our own. Mission impossible chapter 2 started. All seeds are committed to big companies and not even one single seed is allowed on your land after harvest. Numerous phone calls and emails later, we sourced Durum from a Government farm in the Free-State. 100kgs of uncleaned Durum wheat was brought down via a friend travelling back to Cape Town.

We planted the seeds and waited for them to start growing. We had one of the workers walk through the wheat planted, pulling out the “normal wheat” recognizing it from the shorter bristles as opposed to the longer bristles of the Durum, “purifying” the cultivation.

Like all projects on the farm, this particular project showed Attilio’s passion for farming, we finally made it and 2016 was our first Wheat harvest, but also the first time I ever saw my husband leap jump the garden fence.

Mission Impossible chapter 3 started at Durum harvest time.

We planted barley in the field opposite the Durum. After an hour of explaining and demonstrating to the contractor how he wanted the barley to be harvested separately from the Durum, Attilio came back up close to our house. Turning his back, he realized that the operator was happily taking the easy way of harvesting, going straight from one field to the other. A dead freezing scream of NOOOOOOOO came out of Attilio’s mouth, while jumping the fence of the vegetable garden to reach the closest corner of the field, so that the approximate operator can hear him and stop before it’s too late. But it was…the seeds were “dirty” again, and it was time for Plan B.

For 20 days our ladies,  spent time atrociously separating the Durham seeds from the barley. Even though this was a tedious time consuming job, we did not have more seeds and just had to push through the challenges.

All of this to make our first flour, The Italian way.

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