The Lemons of Gargano

You know where we are, right? We’re in Gargano, the northern part of the Apulia region in Southern Italy. Here we take a walk around Zio Michele’s garden, taste some great fruit and veg, and learn about organic farming.

How we ended up learning about lemons

If you’ve read our previous post, you’ll know we stayed at the lovely Pizzicato Eco B&B, run by Pino, a top bloke. Pino offers all his guests an ‘aperitivo bio’; a platter of crudités sprinkled with olive oil and lemon, some olives ‘from his uncle’s garden’ and a drink of your choice (we opted for some artisan beer).

As an Italian, I am not new to good food. But let me tell you, I have never had such amazing vegetables. So, when I congratulated Pino for the delicious food, he offered to show us where the vegetables came from. “Would you like to visit my uncle’s garden?” he offered. Instantly, we were sold.

Uncle Michele lemons gargano
Zio Michele and the kiwi vines

The following day, we walked down the hill atop which Vico del Gargano stands, towards the sea. Twist after twist, bend after bend, we walked past olive groves and citrus trees. The air was scented with the coconut aroma of broom flowers, and the herby smell of Mediterranean shrubs.

Plums lemons gargano
Delicious plums!

Zio Michele’s Gargano lemon groves

Zio Michele was waiting for us in front of the garden. A middle-aged man, who left the restaurant he used to run to tend to the family’s land. “Everything you see here goes to the bar, they need lots of fruit for cakes and icecream” he said. We walked under a tunnel of kiwi vines. As I saw the fruit, small and firm, hanging off the branches, I savoured again the mini kiwi pastry I had for breakfast that morning.

Kiwi Three lemons gargano
Kiwi hanging off the plant

It was hard to understand Zio Michele sometimes, when he spoke the local dialect. He laughed whenever he asked me ‘Did you understand?’ when it was clear that I hadn’t. We walked past a huge mulberry tree; Zio Michele shook its branches and plump, pearly berries fell on nets placed under the tree. ‘Mangia, mangia’, he kept saying, passing over handfuls of mulberries. I hadn’t eaten mulberries straight off a tree since I was in primary school.

White Mulberries lemons gargano
The white mulberries we ate

Then we headed towards the lemon groves. “The lemons of Gargano, the most delicious you’ll ever try” Zio Michele promised. I couldn’t stop him; he packed our bags full with what must have been 10 kilos of lemons. The lemons were huge, with knobbly, opaque skin, rough to the touch; not unlike Zio Michele’s hands.

We wandered the lemon groves for a while, looking at baby mandarines, no bigger than a cherry. ‘The lemons of Gargano’ are harvested three or four times a year; oranges and mandarines just once.

Orange Picking lemons gargano
I love oranges. Seriously, I might be obsessed.

Learning about organic farming

He showed us the compost pit, where he collected coffee grounds and vegetable peelings to fertilise the land. “We don’t use medicines! Everything here is biologico“, he promised, explaining how coffee is also excellent to get rid of both ‘naked’ and ‘clothed’ snails.

After the citrus grove, we walked to the vegetable garden, where the silver olive trees were bordered by rows of courgettes, salad leaves, tomatoes and more. We passed the outdoor kitchen and barbecue, complete with long table, where Zio Michele hosts dinners for family and friends. “You can’t believe how much we ate last time! Sausages, costine…”  

Pomegranate Flower lemons gargano
A pomegranate flower

Zio Michele encouraged us to pick the fruit right off the trees, and eat it straight away. We had plums, figs, oranges and cherries, each more delicious than the other. It was a childlike joy; there we were, muddy shoes and dirty knees from where we knelt down to pick up some fallen oranges, juice running down our chins.

Puglia Lone lemons gargano
A lone lemon

Before heading back, Zio gave us the tastiest morsel of all; a tiny wild strawberry. “No, not that one” he said, as I picked a big juicy one. “That one”, he said, pointing at one that was a red so deep it was almost purple. An explosion of flavour. Not only strawberry; it tasted of summer and of rain, of wet leaves and of memories.

Wild Strawberries lemons gargano
The sweetest strawberries

After walking around Zio Michele’s garden, I understood that the ‘Eco’ in Pizzicato is not a simple promise to recycle and use energy-saving bulbs. It is a commitment to the land; it is respect for the land.

Kiwi Tunnel lemons gargano
The kiwi tunnel
Zio Michele lemons gargano
Zio Michele with a friend



32 thoughts on “The Lemons of Gargano”

    • Thanks Alli! Glad you liked it… happy orange is great, isn’t it? I almost felt bad when I ate it 😛

  1. Everybody loves oranges 😉 Though I don’t. It’s ironic to what I said I know :p

    BTW you’re pretty 🙂

    And yes I do want to taste those strawberries 😀

  2. Wow! I would love to taste some of that fresh fruit. I bet it was amazing! The food there is nothing like what we have here in Canada, all trucked in during most months.

    • The food was so delicious. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Oh my this looks like a dream come true! Is there anything better than organic fruit? Probably not – you’re very lucky. Lemons are my absolute favourite fruit, we had a lemon tree in one of our house sits in Australia, that was pretty magical. But this is on another scale!!

  4. Ahhh it all sounds so delicious. Its one thing I love about Italy. Every year I go and every year I eat the most delicious foods! All that freshness is spectacular! My favorite fruit I can only eat in Italy are Pesca Tabbachiera! Yum yum!

  5. I don’t know when I’ve seen such a beautiful and wide-ranging collection of fruit. And Zio Michele definitely added to the experience.

    That apertivo bio with an artisan beer sounds perfect. I’ve tried a few Italian artisan beers in New York and have been very impressed.

    • Hey Dave! Hope you do get to visit Italy one day, we’re big fans of artisan beers and we’ll take you to a brewery tour!

  6. The fruits do look delicious. Organic is so much better than the regular produced stuff but somehow I’m one of those people who doesn’t always get around to buying organic. Too expensive and too complicated as we have a supermarket down the street that does sell non-organic only. Shame, this post definitely reminds me I should consider my spending more often…

    • hey Anto, I’m the same, too lazy to hunt down the really good stuff when I’m in cities. This is why it was such a treat!

  7. What an amazing treat, love the randomness of travel which makes you more open to experiences. The fruit looks fantastic, great memories.

  8. Love it! I’d love to see his garden!
    The oranges, the lemons… It reminds me when we use to go back to Spain with my parents and I would sneak in the garden nearby to grab those fabulous oranges and lemons, so big, rough and tasty!

  9. This place looks incredible! When I visited Greece a few years ago, the hotel owner had a lemon tree in the garden & the smell was divine. Your post brought back some lovely, relaxing memories 🙂

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