A patrimony to save:
Apulian centuries-old olive trees
With the 40% of the total output, Puglia is Italy’s top producer of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and its land cultivating olives account for the 38% of the total all over Italy. It’s therefore easy to imagine how olive trees represent the real Pugliese soul, a veritable cultural heritage that has shaped the landscape across the centuries and given an unmistakable identity to the region.
Salento: blue sea and green olive trees
Salento is the southernmost part of peninsular Italy, the tip of Italy’s heel. Here, the dominant colors are the blue of the crystal-clear sea and the brownie green of the immense field cultivated with Olive trees. It’s not surprising that olive cultivation is also an important part of the Salento economy: fields are dotted with “masserie” – large farm houses where olives and other vegetables are cultivated and that are often open to the public as a restaurant, bed&breakfast or – precisely – as Olive Oil and vegetables stores.
With such simple lifestyle, idyllic landscape and the cheerfulness of the people living here, one could think to be in a dream when visiting Salento. For many families living here, however, it recently turned out to be a nightmare. A few years ago, some apparently healthy olive trees started to have brown and crunchy leaves. At first, it was even difficult to establish the cause, but it rapidly came out that it was all due to the plant bacterium Xylella.
Xylella is considered by the European Union as one of the most dangerous plant bacteria in the world and, until the olive trees in Gallipoli had these symptoms, it had never been seen before. The arrival of the bacteria threatened to wipe out thousands of Olive trees in Salento, including huge number of centuries-old trees whose gnarled trunks have stood firm even as vast changes swept across the region.
Xylella, a threat to the Apulian most precious treasure
When the Xylella emergency exploded, scientists from all over the world tried to find a cure for the olive-tree-killing bacteria, however, after more than 5 years, there still is any solution to save them. The only possible solution imposed to the European Union was to chop down not only infected trees but also lot of healthy trees in risky zone so as to create a buffer zone and limit the spread of the bacteria.
Although it may seem reasonable, this would mean to cut down an incredible number of trees that are more than five hundred years old, like the one in the Olio Merico property. Those trees have powerful branches and trunks sculpted by the passing of time, that patiently created knobs and holes with the most creative shapes. As Marta, the actual owner of Olio Merico, explains those olive trees do not simply represent beauty but are a real cultural heritage.
“It’s not easy to save Olive Trees. At first, we were asked to use pesticides against Xylella that would have completely destroyed the whole ecosystem. Since many of us own organic farms, we took a position against it and the court established we were right. But then they asked to chop off everything and, from both local and Italian government we had any kind of support. Puglia region is offering money to the farmers that decide to cut off and plant the trees they want, but they impose highly impactful variety, that requires lot of water and chemicals”
The rarest Liquid Gold
The olive trees in Marta’s field dates back to the 1700 and already her great-grandfather at the beginning of 1800 had a stone mill where he produced the "Liquid Gold"from the really same trees. Nowadays, these olive trees are not as productive as the “younger”: their productivity is around the 8% (considering oil produced per tons of olives) against the normal 15-20%.
“They say we don’t want to chop off our trees because of the money but the truth is that they are not highly profitable. We are not Olive Oil producers, we are trees guardian and – by guarding trees, we guard an immense patrimony. Our trees are simply part of our family”
Even if they do not produce Olive Oil in big quantity, the quality is without any doubt excellent and is highly appreciated among the most discerning customers. It is an intense olive oil with herbal notes and a bit spicy after taste and, even more important, it’s full of antioxidant, that makes this Liquid Gold a perfect ally for a well-balanced, healthy diet.
From France to Apulia: a special olive oil bottle
“Because of the whole situation, our farm is facing a serious crisis. We used to hire seasonal workers for the picking season, but we are constantly decreasing the number of workers and the amount of hours we can offer them. And the crisis will devastate lot of satellite activities…for instance, olive oil bottle producers... a real disaster not only for our landscapes and memory, but for our economy as well”
But even in the darkest moment there’s always some hope. And Olio Merico’s hope arrived in the form of a young French couple that came for a visit to the mill and a guided walk through the Centuries-Old Olive trees.
About one year later, Marta and her family received an unexpected gift: the two young guys were two important brand designers that have been so impressed by the amazing shapes of the olive trees and by the story of the farm that decided to give their contribute to the cause. How? They created a rebranding project and donated it to Olio Merico with some special Olive Oil bottles, a gift as precious as the olive trees they fondly protect, a sign that it worth to fight for these nature’s masterpiece.
EatTiamo's mission is to give voice to the often voiceless small producers, to make their stories travel even overseas. We are proud to collaborate with a company that defends the environment and the natural patrimony of our beloved Country and completely embraces our philosophy by producing a genuine product such as Extra Virgin Olive Oil - that, because of its countless health benefits, has been included on the UNESCO's list of world intangible heritage.