My local market in Abruzzo was awash with natural aphrodisiacs the day before Valentine’s Day. Some of those on offer were strictly out of season like fava beans (broad beans) which made me laugh a little inside. Many people are incredibly precious about how Italians only ever eat seasonal food, most of the time yes but those with carnal love food knowledge can be persuaded otherwise on Valentine’s Day!
The market’s fishmonger sold me his last piece of salmon at 8.30 am! Salmon can cost triple the price of local fish which means that you can almost guarantee getting a piece no matter how late you arrive at market, hence it being top of the list for Abruzzese favourite Valentine foods.
This gorgeous fish helps cultivate all types of appetite for Valentine’s Day amore, its most famously noted aphrodisiac powers stem from being high in protein for staying power. Perhaps more importantly for parents with young children it’s rich in Omega-3s; these help increase serotonin levels to counter that sleepy hibernation feeling that winter brings and raise spirits and mood.
Artichokes from Calabria were the prize display as well as my favourite fruit and vegetable lady selling both large and small jars of her highly coveted tender baby artichoke hearts.
Globe artichokes always make me remember an old goat of an actor I worked for whilst studying who tried to seduce me with a plate of these he cooked on Valentine’s Day. Young and not incredibly sensual I could not understand why he thought pulling off each petal and sliding it in between his teeth such a ‘beautiful’ experience. Times change…, although if I am brutally honest despite having some delicious globe artichoke dishes in Abruzzo I still prefer artichoke hearts hence treating myself to a large jar.
Artichokes do make a wonderful restorative morning-after detox dish if your Valentine’s was a little boozy and excessive in the amount of bubbly drunk; the silymarin they contain helps to clean the liver and lighten your mood.
3. Fava Beans (Broad Beans)
That broad beans were on sale in early February and being bought was a surprise in itself, but not half as much from researching why they would be a Valentine’s treat. Despite their glorious taste beans do not come to mind as a natural aphrodisiac.
After a little research not only did I discover that fava beans were Europe’s only endemic beans, they are nature’s best natural source of l-dopa, an amino acid that stimulates desire, morning glory and can help alleviate hypertension. Cicero records using them to increase his own sexual prowess whilst St Jerome forbid nuns to eat fava beans being that they ‘tickle the genitals’.
It looked like every other lady was buying a punnet of these at the market. Unlike the winter strawberries sold in supermarkets in the UK, these delicious fruits filled my kitchen with their pungent traditional sweet summer aromas as soon as I got home. Quickly the punnet was bare, each time my little boy came in from playing outside one was slyly eaten.
The Romans venerated them as a symbol of Venus and depending on your leanings are heart, nipple shaped or both. Their aphrodisiac powers historically lie from not just being a member of the rose family but from the large number of seeds they uniquely hold on the outside, which were believed to increase fertility. High in Vitamin C, eight strawberries equates to eating one orange which helps build strong arteries and all important blood flow.
Happy Valentine’s Day from Abruzzo, here’s hoping that a few people share some of their recipes traditionally made with these ingredients!