Saturday, September 11, 2010

Agriculture in Italy

Piero is 78 years old and is a font of knowledge concerning agriculture in this area.  He has trees….pear, apple, olive, fig, apricot , persimmon and plum.  He has herbs and  vegetables….tomatoes, capers, artichokes, basil, rosemary, sage, lavender, peppers and oregano.  He has flowers….orchids, crocuses, roses, lillies and irises…..it was over Irises that he and Michael met.  AND, he knows so much about the grape and wine industry.    So, here is a bit of the knowledge that we have gleaned from him……

First of all, this is a caper bush……

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The capers are picked as a flower buds and are cleaned and pickled.  In this photo you can see all of the stages of the flower…..  the buds are the small round beads (circled at the bottom right), the flower is obvious, the seed pod forms after the flower wilts and the seeds are seen in the open seed pod…..
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There are wonderful vineyards next to their home and we enjoyed taking photos of the huge groups of grapes.  We tried one or two and they tasted fantastic, but Piero told us that picking season is actually about 2 weeks away. 

_9108431 _9108426 These vines are planted in the traditional Tuscan way.  They have concrete posts set through out the vineyard with three wires running between the posts.  The vines are tied onto the lines to hold them upright.

He told us that the newer vineyards were moving to a technology that allows the grapes to be picked by machine.  The machine is very tall and the wheels run on each side of the line of vines.  The posts (seen as concrete above) are made from wood as it is more flexible than concrete.  The wires are actually two pieces of wire and the vines are simply run between those two wires and held in place that way.  The vines are pruned through out the season so that the grapes bunches all fall at the same height (click on the photo to see better)…..

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Piero took us to meet a gentleman who tends a small vineyard that his grandfather planted many years ago where trees were used to hold up the vines rather than posts and wires.  The trees were pruned to stay close to the ground and the branches were wound  together to make continuous rows of limbs.  The vines are then tied to the limbs.….

_9118571 _9118578 He was very proud of this tradition and was excited that we had come to see some of the “old ways”….

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Piero wanted us to see several different wineries and we started with one that would be classed as a large winery.  There were metal silos outside each filled with wine or cleaned and ready for the new vintage that is about to be pressed.  You  have several options if you want to buy wine from them.  Naturally, you can buy it by the bottle, but can also purchase a 10 liter box…..

_9118535 or you can bring your own container and pump it directly from the vats….

_9118537 This was one of the funniest photos….. “gas pumps” that show the price per liter of WINE, and it is actually cheaper than petrol (gas) here.  Nothing was over 1.25 Euro per liter….

_9118534 The same went for olive oil….the two containers on the far right of the photo are filled with olive oil and you could bring in your own container and fill it as well.

Next, Piero wanted us to see a small wine operation so he drove us to the home of two brothers (Giotto & Mario Nesi).  He is great friends with these two men as they were the owners of the house that he now lives in.  

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They were so very sweet to us and first showed me lots of places to take great scenic photos….

_9118551 _9118545 Then they invited us into their winery….a much smaller but far more friendly environment.  Michael and I both died laughing that there was a neighbor there filling one of his bottles with wine and either he had on a bathing suit under his shirt, or it was simply his underwear…..who knows.  But they all kept insisting that I take photos, so I did…..

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They gave us samples of both of the wines and we decided to purchase a 10 litri box of white although I am not exactly sure how we are going to get it back to Rome!!!!  By the way, it only cost 15 Euros (about $19).  They then asked if we would like a bottle of red to have with lunch.  We said “yes” thinking that we were buying that too, but it ended up being a gift from them.  THEN, one of them walked back into another room and came out with a bottle of olive oil just for us!!!  It was SO very nice!!!!

So much for our wine tour….tomorrow we are going to visit a medium sized winery!!!

While we were walking on their property, Michael and I saw these plants and wondered what they were….

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….any guesses……they are artichokes that were never picked and allowed to go to seed!!!

We went on a “harvest” walk with Piero where we ate almost as much fruit as we gathered!!!   The last thing picked were these beautiful peppers.

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After dinner, Piero pulled out a large needle and threaded these new ones onto a string and hung it from the ceiling of the kitchen…..

_9108525 Polly will use these over the next year in her cooking.  She said that the flavors are the most intense and hot right now but that they will mellow as time goes past.

I found that Piero was not the only agriculture expert as Polly explained about how they pruned the olive trees.  Most of the branches are pruned downwards so that the olives are easy to reach at picking time.  However, one branch is always pointed upward to the sky to encourage the tree to continue growing upward!!   Piero said that it is quite an art to prune olive trees as the olives only grow on wood that is 2 years old so you have to be careful or you might end up with a year of now new olives.  It makes for very interesting shapes of trees. 

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Finally….and not related to agriculture….  Piero pointed out a township that was once owned by Machiavelli and mentioned that he had also owned Piero’s property…..many, many years ago.  He stopped at a villa that was being re-furbished and told us that this house was built for Machiavelli’s daughter who was a Nun.  Michael saw a trash heap to one side and pulled out a bunch of cool tiles that were going to be thrown away.  Piero thought that they were probably from the 1800’s, so  well after Machiavelli’s time, but VERY  cool anyway!!!

1 comment:

Anita said...

This would be my favorite tour of the trip...agriculture, non-city folks, beautiful views!

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