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Henry James, visiting Umbria, wrote: «His first [visitor] care will be not to be in a hurry to walk everywhere very slowly and aimlessly preserving all that his eyes will encounter».

A handful of words that inspires this itinerary among the flavors and aromas of Valnerina, significative elements of an Umbrian identity, which wants to tell its story. Authentic tastes which come back to life thorough valleys and ancient towns where the laboriousness of man is kept.  Here it is possible to know the whises of the Umbrian people to reflect, at the table, the richeness of their land: this is the reason why  we decided to discover the flavors of Valnerina.

The trout of the Nera river

The Nera river is like a primitive flow, which for millennia has tormented the sleep of the ancient bridges and stone of Valnerina. It has shaped this superb landscape, combining its name with the territory and becoming an incomparable icon of Umbria. Valnerina is a place where biodiversity resists to the agri-food chains that aim to bury stories of the fishermen, worn by the Nera and its breeze. And it is precisely in this context that the river drags downstream the trout of the Valnerina, considered as a trophy by the fishermen coming from everywhere.

 

Honey

Honey

In Valnerina, the journey through the lands of taste can continue, crossing one of the many passes and borders and finding different souls and unexpected aromas. Visitng small companies that produce ancient flavors, such as honey, allows the visitor to meet people, faces and stories. Buying directly from the producers, at zero km, not only guarantees the quality, but also allows to follow an itinerary along the paths of an uncontaminated landscape. This part of Umbria has a strong voction for this noble nectar both precious and appreciated, which has flourished, with renewed and lively enthusiasm, derived from the source of an ancient tradition.

 

legumi tipici umbri

IGP lentils of Castelluccio

If there was a night of the gastronomy Oscars, on the red carpet of taste and tradition, the Umbrian excellences would win more than one award.  But if there is an award that certainly can not miss is that for the lentils of Castelluccio di Norcia: a product in which archaic tastes are exhibited, with an extraordinarily modern charm.
Castelluccio di Norcia, a poor land with healthy products, would be the closing title of this short film about the Umbria of genuineness. In the “tradition casting”, the main role belongs to the famous lentil, legume, that in the cold of the Apennine Mountains ‘ winter, manages to preserve an incomparable quality. A food proudly made in Valnerina that, in the shyness of an extraordinarily small seed, hides an infinitely large flavor.

 

Keep it going…

A renewed interest in quality and healthy food has grown over the last 20-30 years and Umbria finds itself in the middle of a Renaissance that includes heritage, biodynamic and organic foods.

Ancient Tastes

Heritage or heirloom foods refer to cultivars that have been re-discovered after years of non-use or little use. Seeds have been traced back for generations and sowed to produce fruits and legumes that had been “lost” due to newer varieties or hybrids. Often times you can no longer find these fruits in commercial stores. Some might not as aesthetically attractive as their modern counterparts but they possess a unique and delicious taste.

For almost 30 years, growers near Città di Castello have been hunting down and creating a collection of heritage fruit trees—their orchards include apple, pear, cherry, plum, fig and almond. All the trees have been catalogued and the seeds preserved. Along with promoting heritage fruits, they sell their historical trees to the general public, via Azienda Agricola Archaeologia Arborea.

Let's Staring at the Stars

Biodynamic, instead, refers to a way of farming that believes in a very close partnership with the rhythms of nature. Based on the principles outlined by Rudolf Steiner in the 1920s, its goal is to restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony. Important tenants include crop diversification, the use of complimentary crops such as clover or barley to re-introduce nitrogen into the soil, frequent crop rotation and even considering the position of the moon and stars in terms of your sowing and reaping.

In Umbria you can find a number of different products, including biodynamic wines by Azienda Fontesecca in Città della Pieve, by Fattoria Mani di Luna in Torgiano, or by Raìna, whose headquarter is placed in Cannara. Similarly, some farms produce biodynamic oils – such as Azienda Agraria Hispellum in Spello or Fonte Vergine in Terni – or grains – e.g. Azienda Biodinamica Conca d’Oro in Gubbio or Torre Colombaia in San Biagio della Valle (near Marsciano). Local Umbrian dairies also produce cheeses milked from goats raised under biodynamic principles, such as Fattoria Il Secondo Altopiano, placed in Orvieto.

One can apply for membership into various biodynamic associations, of which Demeteris recognized world wide and theAssociazione Nazionale per l’Agricoltura Biodinamica, a national Italian group, has it’s Umbrian seat based in Spello.

The Matter of Organic

Organic is perhaps the most strictly controlled, yet mis-understood name that can be found on many tables today. Just a decade ago, the term “organic” was placed on products loosely, and without certification, but now very strict labelling requirements mean that you can only use the word “organic” if you have received certification from government controlled agencies. Acceptance into organic involves strict control over the amounts and types of fertilizers, prohibits the use of pesticides and herbicides, and dictates that you treat your crops sporadically—and only when rain or climate indicates it is necessary.

The famous Green Leaf guarantees organic and indicates that a product has met the controls set by a comprehensive European law referred to as 834/2007. There are a number of entities that can award the green leaf in Umbria, including ICEA, Ecocert (French), Suolo e Salute, Bioagricert.

A Delicate Method

To qualify as organic, you must also harvest or prepare your product on organically approved tools.

So, a grain farmer will need to send his crop to an organic mill, such as the Molino Silvestri in Torgiano. The Molino grinds and sells a number of grains and flours for private use and restaurants in Umbria and Tuscany.

Likewise, to produce organic olive oil you need to press in a mill that has obtained organic approval. Often you are the first to press in the morning so that you are on clean machinery, with no residual from non-organic fruit.

Every product of the Earth can be organic: we can have wine, such as the one produced by Azienda Agricola Di Filippo in Cannara or the one by Cantina Antonelli in Montefalco; we can have saffron, like the one by Azienda Agricola De Carolis Adelino in Civita di Cascia, jams from Azienda Agricola Sibilla in Norcia, cheese from Azienda Agricola Rossi Rita, which collects and processes organic milk from cows breed in several farms placed in Valnerina.