Healthy soil, healthy food
The Olive Groves from which L’Oro Di Volcei Extra Virgin Olive Oil is produced are quite unique, they come from a rich and ancient history that dates back 2400 years to the second Hellenic Diaspora that settled that region in the 4th Century B.C. The people who farm these ancient groves and land are the direct descendants of those settlers who carry on the traditions and farming methods of old, that Peter has chosen to invest in. Over a period of over 4 years of research across the southern regions of Italy, Peter selected the Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Buccino owing to it’s incredible quality, richness of flavour and also because in this remote region pollutants are virtually absent as is the use of any chemicals, pesticides or other. Peter has been using this Extra Virgin Olive Oil ever since he opened his doors to the world in 2015.
The importance of soil structure, the biodiversity of the fungal colonies, bacteria and minerals that make up its very soul, cannot ever be underestimated for it is these elements that allow plants to grow healthy and produce incredible results when the time of harvest comes round.
When the Greeks settled in this region in the 4th Century B.C. the lay of the land was very different from what it is now, in the valleys at the base of the town sits the ancient bed of a lake that was drained off during the 1940’s, the richness of silts and clays which are present in the soil make for a unique kind of agriculture, one which produces some of the most outstanding crops year on year and that we use in our kitchen daily.
The Olive Groves which have been planted in this area have an incredible tonality and vibrant texture to the Olive Oil that they produce, the bacterial colonies and fungal mycelium network that break down minerals and organic compounds making them bioavailable to the tree’s root network are truly quite extensive. Thanks to the avoidance of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, the soil in this area of Buccino has retained it’s richness in life diversity in the soil, something that translates to incredible nutritional value in the produce that we use. Healthy soil, produces healthy plants, which are in turn nutritionally superior to any industrially farmed produce.
The texture of the Extra Virgin Olive Oil varies in tonalities depending on sun exposure, rainfall and access to nutrition from the soil within which they are planted, thankfully, Buccino and it’s surrounds have some the healthiest soil in the world, thus producing some of the most incredible flavour profiles in their Olive Oil.
It is important to bear in mind that soil health is at the foundation of Biodynamic Farming, or Permaculture if you want, the minerals that are present in the soil may not all be bioavailable to the plants that grow in it and will need fungal colonies as well as bacterial biodiversity to make these minerals and organic compounds available to the plant’s root network so that they can be absorbed. So much so that there are plant species that will not grow in soil where there is absence of the fungal and bacterial diversity that is essential for them to grow. The nature of soil and it’s health are crucial to growing plants that will be rich in nutritional value, but also, that can sustain the biodiversity of the local fauna and insect population. Pollination is a key factor in the creation of crops, so being able to maintain a sustainable environment for life to thrive is vital, insects are our friends in many ways and are an integral part of farming sustainably.
The ancient farming techniques that have been passed down over the millennia in this region all involve the use of sustainable agrarian practices that are aimed at coexisting with the Natural World through a deep understanding of the ecosystems and how they work to create and preserve life. Clays are an essential reservoir of minerals as well as moisture retention, they allow for permeation of root networks by fungal root networks and encourage bacterial colonies to thrive within the silts that are captured by their in-permeability. These micro ecosystems that exist within the soil structures all compensate each other in either one way or another, they are interdependent and together from the incredible diversity of life that sustains us and the plants that give us, year on year, healthy, nutritionally rich food.
The minerality of the soil in the southern regions of Italy is further enhanced by the vulcanicity of the area, from Mount Vesuvius to Mount Etna the richness in minerals that are present in the land are quite outstanding. These volcanic minerals are part of the carbon cycle, in other words, they are returned to the upper Lithosphere, the crust upon which we live, from great depth in the Mantle through volcanic eruptions. Soil analysis has demonstrated that there are way more than 67 different mineral compounds that plants have access to thanks to the bacteria and fungal colonies that process them for their own survival. Plants in turn, will process other elements of this minerality and make them available to fungal colonies and bacteria, thus completing the circle of symbiosis of life that makes Permaculture so relevant to us in today’s world.
Ancient tree groves, may these be Olive Trees or other, have fungal root networks called Mycelium that encase their own roots, this incredible system allows trees to communicate with one another through chemical and enzymatic processes that allow them to shift nutritional elements from one part of the forest to another. There is a lot more to trees and the living elements within soil than we imagine possible, every life form that exists on our beautiful planet is intrinsically interconnected, the fact that we do not see these connections or understand them does not mean that they do not exist. Our ignorance of understanding these delicate balances of the natural world and how interconnected all living creatures are, is doing us great harm, ours is an effort to bring mindfulness to the table and the choices we make when we consume food, because our choices can determine the outcome of our future and all living being in our world.
Mother Nature to call her as such, is not something that we can industrially imitate or place in a box to manufacture food in the manner which we are using now, it simply not sustainable and is doing both us and our world incalculable damage. These are the natural systems that I am mindful of when I source my ingredients or farm land, I want people to see what I see because I believe that is essential now, more than ever, to be mindful of what we chose to invest in when making our own choices as to what to place on the table.
Follow the seasons, learn how to cook and prepare delicious seasonal dishes, work in harmony and in symbiosis with nature; remember that our body, digestive tract, endocrine and nervous system, everything that we are today, evolved in line with the natural ecosystems that have made us who we are. Invest in farmers that use sustainable agrarian practices, buy grass-fed free-range beef, remember that animals that do free pasture have access to herbs that are rich in minerals and nutritional elements that make a huge difference to the quality you eat. Choose artisans that respect the land and the life that sustains us, be mindful of the choices you make when going shopping, there is no reason why, in our modern world, we cannot shop clean and sustainable, in truth, we should be seeking these products out, both for our own sake and for that of our children and the generations yet to come.
In my kitchen you will only find produce that has been farmed sustainably, I follow the season and as a result, my cuisine has a unique texture and flavour profile which changes during the year, it is such a joy to be able to work alongside the natural world and to bring this happiness to the table.