Food Forever Experience


For centuries Italian cuisine has played a powerful role in shaping our eating habits, not only in Europe but, relatively recently, the entire world.  From Apicius in the 4th century, to the seemingly ever-present Italian-American cuisine of the 20th century, the impact of Lo Stivale on the culinary habits of the planet is difficult to overstate. With such an influential tradition, it is only fitting that the Food Forever Experience series comes to Italy.

On 11 November 2019, Food Forever and FAO’s International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA)  hosted a celebration on the biodiversity of our foods and the 15th Anniversary of the Treaty’s entry-into-force.

Featuring unique ingredients from crops of importance to Italian cuisines like the Orte Artichoke and Cacio Fiore cheese to crops of major global importance such as durum wheat and chickpea, the reception celebrated the critical importance of the diversity of our foods and the actions we can collectively take to safeguard it.

The Ingredients

  • Anise

    One of the oldest herbs, Anise spread around the Mediterranean in ancient times. To this day, it is an indispensable spice in many kitchens for soups, stews, and some desserts but is perhaps best known as an ingredient in famous spirits such as raki, mastika and ouzo.

  • Arsoli Bean

    Arsoli beans have been cultivated since at least the sixteenth century in Arsoli, a small village in the mountains, 60 km outside of Rome. Originally arriving in Italy as a gift from King Carlo V of Spain to Pope Julius III, Arsoli beans soon took on cultural significance, featuring in regional proverbs and traditional songs. A climbing bean variety, the plant can reach a height of 3.5 meters. They are easily recognizable, and much prized, because of their soft, buttery texture, but today they are rarely found beyond the area around Arsoli.

  • Atina Bean

    Every September since the mid 19th century, these beans have been harvested by hand in the community of Atina, in the southern reaches of Lazio. Atina beans are prized locally because of their particularly sweet flavor and extreme tenderness, their skin so thin there is no need to soak them before cooking. Though production of this rare bean has declined since the 1950s, local farmers and seed savers are slowly leading its rediscovery in Italy.

  • Bebè Apple

    Native to North America but grown in the Sabina area in central Italy, bebè apples are certainly not your average variety. Yellow-white with a bright red blush, they are crunchy, juicy, and extremely sweet with a long shelf life. Only a handful of trees remain in an area where growers must compete for land with olive oil production.

  • Nepi White Onion

    This flattened onion hails from Nepi, a village about 50 km north of Rome, where sulphurous water rich in mineral salts contributes to a noticeably sweet and fragrant taste. Though once central to the livelihoods of the cipollari of Nepi, the onion has almost disappeared from the region. The few remaining Nepi onion farmers pass their seeds from generation to generation, committed to preserving the unique local variety and preventing hybridization with other varieties grown in the area.

  • Orte Artichoke

    In the mid-twentieth century, the Orte artichoke thrived in the Tiber River valley and was a critical component of central Italian cuisine. The Orte artichoke is slightly larger than typical artichokes, with subtle purple tones, and takes slightly longer to ripen and harvest.

  • Lake Turano Pea Bean

    These tiny beans are cultivated at about 1000 meters above sea level on the mountain slopes surrounding Lake Turano, northeast of Rome. They are sold almost exclusively in local markets around the lake. Largely unavailable beyond the immediate area of their cultivation, Lake Turano pea beans add a distinct and delicate flavor to the average soup, stew, or salad.

  • Pecorino Romano PDO

    Highly aromatic and slightly piquant, Pecorino Romano is one of the most important sheep cheeses among EU Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) products. Hard, salty, and one of Italy’s oldest cheeses, Pecorino Romano was a staple in Roman legionaries’ portable lunches. Though originating in the region around ancient Rome, in the 19th century production largely shifted to Sardinia, a major agricultural exporter, where, despite the name, 97% of production occurs today.

  • Puntarelle

    An Italian chicory variety, puntarelle is a hearty, bitter winter green prized in Italian kitchens. While common in the areas surrounding Rome, puntarelle is difficult to find further afield. Characterized by its leaves shaped like those of dandelions, and light green stems, it can be eaten raw or cooked and is often included in a Roman salad that goes by the same name.

  • Purgatory Bean

    Since the 17th century, these beans have been served at the “Pranzo del Purgatorio” (Purgatory Lunch) on Ash Wednesday in northern Lazio. Production is traditionally concentrated in three towns near the Lago di Bolsena: Gradoli, Acquapendente and Onano. Delicate and small in size, this bean has struggled to keep up with commercial varieties but continues to circulate among local growers.

  • Radicchio

    An Italian variety of chicory, radicchio adds a crunchy texture and a bold, bitter flavor to any salad or pasta sauce. It is often paired with sweet or acidic flavors to balance dishes. Beyond its unique flavor and visual appeal, radicchio is remarkably nutritious. Its wine-red leaves are packed with important vitamins and minerals, and with fiber.

  • Cacio Fiore

    Cacio Fiore is a cheese made from the milk of Sarda sheep, which are indigenous to the island of Sardinia. Cacio Fiore reflects a rich pastoral culture perfectly adapted to the diverse environment of the island, which ranges from rocky mountains to sandy coasts. Cacio Fiore is produced by mixing the raw milk with rennet produced from Artichoke flowers. The resulting soft, creamy cheese has a strong, slightly bitter taste profile that balances with the scent of artichokes and field vegetables.

  • Triticum Durum

    Historically one of the Mediterranean’s most significant crops, durum wheat is a hard, nutritious wheat that produces a coarse flour known as semolina. It is a significant source of various B vitamins, iron, protein, and fiber. Durum wheat is one of the two main species wheat production relies on, though it accounts for only 5% of the world’s wheat production, with the other 95% made up of common wheat.

  • Truffle

    Truffles are subterranean fungi growing in the proximity of trees’ roots. They can be difficult to harvest, and often trained hogs and dogs perform this task. In Italy, the prized black and white winter truffles are found in Umbria, Piedmont, Emilia Romagna, Tuscany, Lazio, Abruzzo and Molise.

  • Vallepietra Giant Bean

    A tasty, versatile bean with a rich local history, which has been cultivated by farmers in Vallepietra, a small village some 90 km from Rome since the 16th century. The giant beans, known locally as the “ciavattone”, are traditionally eaten plain, tossed with onions and hefty portions of extra-virgin olive oil or as key ingredients in local soups and salads. The Vallepietra Giant Bean reflects an agricultural tradition in rural Italy that has survived thanks to a handful of local family farms.

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Featuring unique ingredients important to Italian cuisine, from the Orte Artichoke and Cacio Fiore cheese, to crops of major global importance, such as durum wheat and chickpea, the joint reception celebrated regionally important ingredients.




November 11: In Rome, we welcomed guests to a celebration of biodiversity on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the coming into force of the FAO’s Plant Treaty.



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