Aromatic herbs are the essence of Florentine cooking. Nepitella is a Tuscan wild herb that recalls mint with a hint of basil and oregano.
For centuries, Florentines have been adding aromatic herbs to foods and drinks in order to give them a more nuanced flavor. Besides rosemary and sage, one of the most typical Tuscan aromatic herb is Nepitella (often called nipitella), which is largely unknown outside the region. In English, it’s often referred to as calamint, although few people are familiar with it. A common staple in any Tuscan kitchen, nepitella is a wild herb that is mostly used in fall and winter cooking. It combines nicely with any mushroom dish, particularly soups and pasta sauces (it’s a must in funghi trifolati). The fresh sharpness of nipitella not only ads a unique and distinct flavor to mushrooms but also makes them more digestible. Its essential oils are in fact rich in healthy qualities that improve digestion and liver function. Nepitella is also great on roasted meats and vegetables.
Where to find nepitella in Florence?
Nepitella is hard to find in stores. If you want to try it, don’t miss the monthly Fierucola in Piazza Santo Spirito. Fierucola is an open air market that is held every third Sunday of the month in the heart of the Oltrarno. There you will meet Duccio Fontani and his colorful van. Duccio is the owner of Azienda Agricola Duccio Fontani, a Chianti farm, where he grows a wide selection of organic herbs and spices. Nepitella is one of them. Duccio doesn’t have a store of his own. You can buy his beautifully packaged herbs at local farmers’ markets around Florence. If you’re travelling through Chianti, you can also visit his organic farm in Castellina.