The Italian Almanac

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basil

Italian News - August 25

Farmers in many parts of northern Italy have called for the declaration of a state of natural disaster. They say a severe drought and devastating storms have destroyed many crops, including basil. The herb is the key ingredient of one of the country's most famous pasta sauces, pesto alla genovese.

Vicious thunderstorms have seen more rain fall across northern Italy in a few hours than had fallen since the start of the year. The most eye-catching damage came west of the port city of Genoa, where hail stones the size of golf balls caused 4m Euro worth of damage.

They smashed greenhouses used to grow basil, the fragrant, intensely-flavoured herb that is the main ingredient of Genoese pesto. About 80% of the basil crop was destroyed, leading to fears of a shortage of pesto sauce.

Pesto - made with basil leaves, parmesan cheese, olive oil, pine kernels and garlic - dates back to Roman times. Although it is simple enough to make, only sauce made with basil grown in the worst-affected area is allowed to be sold as genuine pesto alla genovese.