Watch: Keeping it local; Italian cooks forage for wild herbs and Maltese produce

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Eating locally grown food encourages farmers to stay in business. Two Italian women who live in Malta and are behind ‘Semplice’, a local food business which aims to connect food producers and food consumers, use Maltese produce and forage for wild herbs to prepare their dishes. sat down with Elena Borg and Irene Canovari who run Semplice, a concept which offers a different kind of dinner. 

The two met at a cookery course during their search for something different, they kept in touch and together founded Semplice. 

Through their research, they realised that Malta is a “generous” land. Elena explained that they established contact with local farmers and producers from where they source their ingredients. She observed that despite clearly marked shelves, many people at the supermarket do not differentiate between locally grown and imported food.

“It’s a pity that they don’t buy local food.”

Irene remembered when a farmer gave Elena a bag of tomatoes, which was made into passata, for free. The farmer complained to Elena that people would not buy his tomatoes. 

One reduces their carbon footprint by eating local food, with the produce picked from the field and arrives at the table without travelling great distances. The size of the island makes it easier for Malta to be able to achieve this, Irene explained. 

They learnt that their grandmothers used to forage for wild herbs which they would add to their dishes. To their surprise, they found such herbs in Malta and started making use of them. 

“Risotto with borage is fantastic,” Elena commented. Irene observed that wild herbs and plants do not have a second class taste, and very often their clients are surprised to find them in their plate. 

Every time someone books their service, Elena and Irene would go to the farmers directly to source the ingredients. The food on the menu is made of ingredients which are in season and freshly sourced. They buy directly from farmers. 

“We believe that you are what you eat,” Irene remarked. She added, “what is the point of eating fruit from Brazil or salmon from northern Europe?” 

Local produce is cheaper in terms of carbon footprint, energy and money, Irene explained. 

Irene mentioned that there is an element of pride when a product is presented as “made in Malta” or “Ta’ Malta”. 

‘Supporting local agriculture makes it viable for farmers to continue producing fresh local produce, as well as to prevent fields from being turned into parking lots,’ Irene concluded.