And they're some peculiar ones, too: two of them come from the Karstic area, the mountain territory north of Trieste, and they're a local breed of sheeps and a marasca cherry honey; then there are two typical food products such as pestith, a pesto made of macerated turnips from Cellina and Vajont Valleys (Pordenone), and the saurnschotte cheese from Sappada (Udine).
«With these new acknowledgements, Friuli Venezia Giulia's overall Slow Food Presidi now add up to twenty – said Filippo Bier, Slow Food regional representative for Friuli Venezia Giulia – Every product is important because, beside enhancing a specific food processing, it also helps to keep a territory alive and consequently to fight depopulation and deforestation».
Marasca cherry honey from the Karst
The Prunus Mahaleb, or Mahaleb Cherry, also known as St. Lucie's Cherry, is a cherry-tree variety growing wild in the Karstic area around Trieste and Gorizia, and bees make a special honey out of it: an amber shade of colour, and an almond-like bitter flavour. «Making honey means protecting the bees, and we all know their extreme importance for our whole ecosystems – said Bier – and it also means safeguarding a tree which could face extinction. Beekeping helps saving nature».
Aleš Pernarčič is the representative for the five producers of marasca cherry honey. These trees blossom between the end of April and the beginning of May and such a short period of time is a challenge to beekepers: «After wintertime, bees need to reaccustom to collecting nectar – said Pernarčič – and springtime is usually unstable as to weather, so blossomings aren't always enough».
Bottom left: saurnschotte (photo by Adriana Stroili). Bottom right: Marasca tree honey (photo by Fulvio Bullo)
Its name may vary depending on the different towns of the Cellina and Vajont Valleys (near Pordenone) where it's made: pestith, or pestìç, pestìth, pestìf and pastìç. It's a sort of pesto made of macerated turnips: «It's a native turnip variety, growing in autumn, even in the coldest and sunless mountain regions», explained Bier. It's picked at the end of October and beginning of November, then sliced, boiled and put to macerate with salt, vinegar, cooking water for a couple of months and finally washed and ground, ready to be cooked with butter, oil or onions. And often matched with a hot polenta.
Saurnschotte, the cheese from Sappada
With its 1,245 metres above sea level, it's the highest town in Friuli Venezia Giulia: Sappada, near Udine, is just on the border with Austria and Veneto. Its German-speaking culture reflects itself in the name of the typical cheese, saurnschotte, whose translation from the local dialect literally means “sour ricotta”. But it's instead a fresh cheese made of cow milk, with an addition of salt, pepper and fresh or dry tarragon. This spice is its real secret, as it's actually a mountain variety which is added to the cheese, and not the common one: such variety is called perschtroum in the local language, and grows wild in the surrounding pastures and woods. It's picked during summertime and then kept salted in jars throughout the year. The saurnschotte is used as an ingredient for many local, traditional dishes like the Friulian ravioli called cjarsons (with cheese filling), or just as a spread on bread.
Pecora carsolina or the sheep from the Karst
The Karstic area is known for the very peculiar nature of its soil, mostly calcareous and extremely dry. Grazing helped shape the vegetation, encouraged endemic species able to survive in dryness and made the land fertile. But such habitat is about to disappear, due to many factors, among which the abandoning of sheep farming and traditional agriculture. For instance, in 1961 the pecora carsolina or Karstic sheeps were almost 10 thousands, while twenty years later there were only 250 of them left. Now they add up to an overall 2,800 among Italy (500 sheeps) and nearby Croatia and Slovenia. «In the last decades, farmers started to dismiss sheeps and to favour bovines, due to shrinking milk production, extremely low prices for meat and plots of land being small – said Aleš Pernarčič, one of the authors of the pecora carsolina's regulating guidelines for Slow Food – But they're animals (the bovines, author's note) unsuitable for those territories, so pastures have been replaced by stables». Now only three farmers raise pecora carsolina livestock, and the aim of the brand new presidio is to prompt more farmers to join the group.
About Slow Food
Slow Food is an international non-profit organisation founded in Piedmont in 1986 by Carlo Petrini. Its concept of “slow” is in open contrast to the “fast” that's been reigning over the food industry in the past decades. It tries to give food the right value while paying respect both to producers and nature, thus safeguarding not only the environment, but also the quality of the food itself. As its motto goes, “Good, clean and fair food for all”. In 2000 the organization launched “Presìdi Slow Food”, “presidio” meaning defense, protection in Italian: the project aims at saving local, traditional productions on the verge of extinction. In 2004 the event “Terra Madre” (Mother Earth) reunited in Turin 5,000 representatives from 130 countries worldwide to discuss and share experiences. Among its many ongoing projects, Slow Food advocates for biodiversity and nutrition education.
Cover photo taken from Slow Food Friuli Venezia Giulia's official Facebook account
All inside photos taken from Slow Food official site, courtesy of Slow Food's press office