MILAN, August 20 (BBC News): 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 over the past few days 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 4.0 million euros (£2.7m) 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 per cent of the basil crop was destroyed, leading to fears of a shortage of pesto sauce.
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.
Fears are also growing for the fast-approaching grape harvest in neighbouring Piedmont - home to some of Italy's finest wines, including that known as the king of wines, Barolo.
Across Italy, the biggest farmers' association estimates that the drought and storms have wreaked 1bn euros (£680m) worth of damage.
I too love my pesto, but there's more to this than just my own appetite!! There are thousands of farmers whose main crop is basil. So while the drought might limit my pasta a little bit, it will be limiting the farmers' diets a lot more! Maybe we should think about that also?
Italian cooking did very well prior to Columbus and the introduction of tomatoes from the Neotropics. Workable substitutes for basil are available: cilantro, parsley, and even spinach. Basil will return in abundance during the next growing season and basil from other areas of Italy, Spain, and France will suffice. It's really silly to get hung up on "genuine pesto alla genovese", alternates are plentiful.
Stop Moaning and make your own Pesto, it tastes better than the ready made stuff in jars and works out a lot cheaper. Fresh homemade pesto is the best.