SLOW FOOD WORLD – All Points South for the Atlas of Typical Traditional Products

19 Oct 2001

Rotonda aubergine, Senise pepper, Manfredonia farrata (spelt cake), Carpino butter beans, Saracena moscato, Cerchiara di Calabria bread, Calabrian mischiglio and black pigs – they are all Lucanian, Calabrian and Apulian products included in L’Atlante dei prodotti tipici e tradizionali del sistema nazionale delle aree protette. This volume, the Italian atlas of typical and traditional products from protected areas, is promoted by the Ministry of the Environment and will soon be published by Slow Food and Legambiente (an Italian environmental protection association) in collaboration with Federparchi (the Italian natural parks federation). In recent weeks, this long journey in pursuit of the flavors and gastronomic treasures of 19 Italian national parks and 70 regional parks, which commenced in spring 200l, took Slow Food’s intrepid tasters, myself included, to the parks of Calabria and the Gargano Peninsula in Puglia..
In Mormanno on October 1 and in Terranova di Pollino on October 3, we tasted the typical produce of the Pollino National Park, a vast and various area on the border between Calabria and Basilicata which stretches from the Tyrrhenian to the Ionian, from the Pollino massif to the plain below. This various landscape has generated an enormous wealth of food and wine of the greatest potential imaginable for the future economic development of the area. The Rotonda aubergine, which stands out for its special taste and beauty, is used to make delicious pickles, while the aromatic Senise pepper is either fried in oil, powdered to dress meats or grilled. In the village of Cerchiara di Calabria, they bake bread in old wood ovens without adding brewer’s yeast, but exploiting the starting culture to preserve the fragrance and scent for days on end. The excellent moscato wine of the Saracena hills is produced using ancient production methods that give it persistence in abundance, an intense aroma of caramel, resinous notes and great delicacy. Also worth the journey is the tender fleshy white Rotonda bean, excellent simply boiled and dressed with extra virgin olive oil.
A local restaurateur and producer of great tenacity and flair has also revived the recipe for a very old type of pasta, mischiglio, made of a combination of cereals and pulses such as butter beans, barley, chickpeas and grain.
On October 4-5 it was the turn of the Sila National Park with its lakes, pine forests and vast plateaus. This area of Calabria proved rich in interesting produce too, cheese first and foremost: burrino, resembling a scamorza on the outside but with a creamy, buttery center. Then comes ricotta affumicata, contained in straw baskets and smoked over local wood, which gives it an unmistakable aroma and a very strong, intense flavor. Moving on to cakes, a pleasant discovery was pitta ‘npagliata, a concoction of fine pastry, raisins and walnuts – its complexity evokes fine embroidery. We also visited a Calabrian black pig farm that is working – so far successfully – to recover this ancient native breed. It is not an objective to be sneezed at since Calabrian cured meats, once famous and much sought after, have deteriorated recently, largely due to the poor quality of their ingredients. Now, more often than not, pork is imported from outside the region.
In the following days, on October 6-7, the tasting commission moved on to the mountains of the Aspromonte National park. It was with great surprise that we learnt that one of the most typical, tradition al local products in the inland of Reggio Calabria is stocco, or stoccafisso or salt cod. In Delianova they also carry on the tradition of the torrone, or nougat, of Bagnara Calabra, made of honey, almonds and coated with white or dark chocolate or simply with a wafer.
From October 8-10, we were in the Gargano National Park, an area of great natural beauty encompassing magnificent beaches and the vast Foresta Umbra. Some of its outstanding products – such as the wonderful aged cheese caciocavallo podolico, or Lesina eels, fished in the lagoon of the same name, and Gargano citrus fruits are already protected by Slow Food Presidia. But the park is also rich in olive groves, the extra virgin oil from which invariably passed our tasting tests with flying colors. One oddity is muscisca, strips of mutton and goat meat left to dry and, in somecases flavored with red pepper. Astar dessert is ostie piene stuffed foiled with almonds, mulled wine and honey.
This tour through the flavors of the South brought out allowed us to discover the area’s rich heritage. Here parks are not only places in which animal and vegetable species and varieties are safeguarded but also of have great production potential, a combination of nature, culture, tradition and equilibrium that remains pure and uncontaminated.

Giancarlo Gariglio, a journalist, is a member of the Sloweb editorial staff

In the photo: the map of Parco Nazionale del Pollino

Adapted by Anya Fernald/John Irving

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