Fairs have always played a vital role for local communities in showcasing the latest products and mostly in anticipating the market trends. To farmers and producers, any food fair offers the opportunity to present their products to a a large portion of consumers (differentiated by age, gender, culture and interests) for evaluation and gain positive feedback and suggestions on how they might improve or advance in their area. But the fair is clearly more than just a place to display what they have worked on during the year, food fairs educate the public about the importance of responsible agriculture and food production, they are a place of open discussion, understanding and mutual enrichment.
One of my annual rendez-vous is Agroalimenta, Abruzzo’s regional food fair: it is a global showcase of the region’s typical food specialties, an event setting food market trends and a useful opportunity to explore a pulsating world of 0-km productions run by families and farmers consortia. I love to spend a few hours talking to producers, tasting products and discussing about Abruzzo’s culinary future. These are the products that struck me most:
Honey. I was impressed to learn that in Abruzzo more than 15 different types of honey are produced, covering 10% of national production. The village of Tornareccio (province of Chieti) is the capital of honey, where bees nomadism is widely used: this is an original technique of production that consists in a continuous movement of beekeepers and swarms in search of the best plantations in various places in Italy. It allows to obtain a great variety and quantity of single-flower honeys.
Solina wheat. Solina is an ancient typical wheat of Abruzzo, according to written sources it dates back to the 16th century. Easily adaptable to low fertile soils, solina can be grown in the mountains over 1000 masl because its seed survives underground in winter without rotting. The stem is particularly high and hardly attacked by parasites, therefore the wheat can be cultivated without the use of pesticides and can be considered a product of biological type. Excellent for making homemade bread and pasta, solina is nowadays produced by a consortium of farmers that has been working hard since 2007 to preserve through sustainable cultivation a wheat that was in danger of extinction.
Saffron, the red gold of Abruzzo. Saffron is a bulbous plant belonging to the family of Iridaceae, known for thousands of years in some Mediterranean and Asian areas for its flowers with long scarlet pistils, used for medicinal qualities, aroma and color. The cultivation of saffron is concentrated in about 50 working days between August and October: the process of bulbs planting, harvesting, roasting and packing is rigorously and carefully made by hand, saffron is finally stored and sold in pistils or in powder form to be mainly used for cooking. It is recognized as one of the most expensive products of the world, its cost starts from € 30,00 per gram.
The Road of Olive Oil, Wine and Flavors. Last but not least, where can one experience all of these excellent foods? You may be surprised to know that this flavors map covers an area of less than 20 square km around the city of Lanciano (in the province of Chieti): 33 neighbourhoods, 19 olive oil producers, 9 wineries, 8 agritourist farms representing the best and most authentic foodie venues of the Frentana area, a precious gem halfway between the Trabocchi Coast and the Majella mountain. The itinerary can be explored by car, bike, horseride or even by foot.
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