SHARE
COPY LINK

FARMING

IN PHOTOS: Why Italian farms are freezing fruit trees to protect from frost

Fruit growers in northern Italy have turned their fields into a winter wonderland, in a surprising strategy to save the young harvest from the sudden April frost.

IN PHOTOS: Why Italian farms are freezing fruit trees to protect from frost
Photo: Piero Cruciatti/AFP

We’ve seen Italian and French vineyards ablaze with candles in a bid to keep temperatures above freezing during cold snaps, but another method used by some producers seems more counterintuitive.

The apple trees in the orchard in La Palazzetta, in Valtellina in northern Italy, were among those deliberately covered in ice this week to protect delicate blooms from frost as temperatures plunged. 

Apple trees covered with a layer of ice after being watered to protect blossoms from the frost at an orchard in La Palazzetta, a village located some 100km from Milan. Photo: Piero Cruciatti/AFP
The ice coat is supposed to protect the delicate blossoms from cold temperatures and spring freezes that have hit Italy in recent days. Photo: Piero Cruciatti/AFP

“Last night we saved 5,000 tonnes of apples using this method” across the valley, said Jacopo Fontaneto, of the local branch of the Coldiretti agricultural organisation.

It may not seem like an obvious strategy to freeze the plants to protect them from a sudden drop in temperatures, as was felt across Italy and much of Europe this week.

“It’s simple – we use the existing irrigation system to hose down the plants when temperatures get down to zero. The ice that then forms provides thermal insulation,” Fontaneto told AFP.

Photo: Piero Cruciatti/AFP
Photo: Piero Cruciatti/AFP

“It allows the flowers to stay at that temperature, instead of dropping during the night to minus three or minus four degrees Celsius, as happened last night, which would destroy them.”

Many parts of Italy were hit by a cold snap and even snow earlier this week after basking in above-average temperatures just a few days earlier.

Coldiretti warned the frost had cut agricultural production in some areas by almost half, affecting apricots, peaches, strawberries, kiwis and some vegetables.

While some farmers are freezing their crops, others are lighting bonfires or candles overnight to warm them, at some cost.

READ ALSO:

“In Italy we are facing the consequences of climate change with a tendency towards tropicalisation and the multiplication of extreme events,” Coldiretti said.

Climate events including flooding and rapid shifts between sunshine and bad weather have hit national agricultural production and caused structural damage, causing losses of some 14 billion euros over a decade, Coldiretti added.

Photo: Piero Cruciatti/AFP

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

FOOD & DRINK

OPINION: Michelin-starred cuisine is just not suited to Italy

Michelin-starred food has its merits but it doesn't fit with the Italian tradition of cuisine, argues Silvia Marchetti and some frustrated Italian chefs. There's nothing better than a plate of steaming lasagne, she says.

OPINION: Michelin-starred cuisine is just not suited to Italy

I’ve never been a great fan of sophisticated dishes, twisted recipes and extravagant concoctions that leave you wondering what is it you’re actually eating. T-bone steak with melted dark chocolate as topping, burrata cheese with apples, spaghetti with blueberry sauce aren’t my thing.

Hence, I never eat at Michelin-starred restaurants, and it’s not because of the exorbitant bill – paying €200 for a salad simply because it was grown in the private garden of a chef which he personally sprinkles with mountain water each morning, is a bit over the top.

I just don’t think such fancy food has anything to do with the real Italian tradition.

The ‘nouvelle cuisine’, as the name suggests, was invented in France by chef Paul Bocuse. And it’s ‘nouvelle’ – new – not anchored to past traditions.

The philosophy of serving small morsels of chic food on humongous plates as if they were works of art is the exact opposite of what Italian culinary tradition is all about.

We love to indulge in platefuls of pasta or gnocchi (and often go for a second round), and there are normally three courses (first, second, side dish, dessert and/or coffee), never a 9 or 12-course menu as served at Michelin establishments (unless, perhaps, it’s a wedding).

Too many bites of too many foods messes with flavours and numbs palates, and at the end of a long meal during which you’ve tasted so many creative twists you can hardly remember one, I always leave still feeling hungry and unsatisfied. 

So back home, I often prepare myself a dishful of spaghetti because Michelin pasta servings often consist in just one fork portion artistically curled and laid on the dish. In fact, in my view Michelin starred cuisine feeds more the eye than the stomach.

The way plates are composed, with so much attention to detail, colour, and their visual impact, seems as if they’re made to show-off how great a chef is, than as succulent meals to devour. I used to look at my dish flabbergasted, trying to make out what those de-constructed ingredients were and are now meant to be, and then perplexed,

I look at the chef, and feel as if I’m talking to an eclectic painter who has created a ‘masterpiece’ with my dinner. I’m not saying Michelin starred food is not good, there are some great chefs in Italy who have heightened a revisited Italian cuisine to the Olympus of food, but I just don’t like it nor understand it.

There’s nothing greater than seeing a plate of steaming lasagne being brought to the table and knowing beforehand that my taste buds will also recognise it as such, and enjoy it, rather than finding out it’s actually a sweet pudding instead.

More than once, after a 4-hour Michelin meal with a 20-minute presentation of each dish by the chef, the elaborate food tasted has given me a few digestion problems which lasted all night long.

Michelin-starred food has started to raise eyebrows in Italy among traditional chefs, and is now the focus of a controversy on whether it embodies the authentic Italian culinary experience. 

A Milanese born and bred, Cesare Battisti is the owner of restaurant Ratanà, considered the ‘temple’ of the real risotto alla Milanese.

He has launched a crusade to defend traditional Milanese recipes from what he deems the extravagance and “contamination” of Michelin-starred cuisine. “Michelin-starred experiments are mere culinary pornography. Those chefs see their own ego reflected in their dishes. Their cooking is a narcissistic, snob act meant to confuse, intimidate and disorientate eaters”. 

Arrigo Cipriani, food expert and owner of historical trattoria Harry’s Bar in Venice, says Michelin-starred cuisine is destroying Italy’s real food tradition, the one served inside the many trattorias and historical osterias scattered across the boot where old recipes, and cooking techniques, survive.

“Tasting menus are made so that clients are forced to eat what the chef wants, and reflect the narcissistic nature of such chefs. Italian Michelin-starred cuisine is just a bad copy cat of the French one”, says Cipriani.

I believe we should leave French-style cuisine to the French, who are great at this, and stick to how our grannies cook and have taught us to prepare simple, abundant dishes. At least, you’ll never feel hungry after dinner.

SHOW COMMENTS