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Salento Diary (illustrated)

I walked today from the Masseria to Ugento and back including a beautiful stretch along the via delle monacelle. Here is some of what I saw, starting with the olive trees.

Here are a couple of examples of untended trees (see earlier post); one of them is for sale if you are interested:

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Here instead is a potential site for the French Open (the only major tournament played on clay courts):

Apparently this sort of tending, ie using herbicides to maintain a clean smooth surface under the trees serves a more than aesthetic purpose as it makes it easier to gather up olives that have fallen to the ground. One traditional method of harvesting is to wait until the olives fall from the tree in January-February rather than removing them (by hand, rake, or vibration) forcibly in November. The former approach is generally rejected and yields an inferior, non extra virgin, oil, but apparently one that some locals prefer insofar as it is to them more familiar. One can perhaps understand the temptation to wait for the olives to fall when dealing with trees like this one:

I've read that there are 11 million olive trees in Puglia (=the Salento plus a couple of other provinces) accounting for about about one-third of Italian acreage devoted to olives. The amount of geographic origin EV oil from Puglia is about the same as that from Tuscany, though it is widely suspected that a considerable percentage of "Tuscan" oil is instead oil brought from other places (including Puglia) and bottled as Tuscan (which fetches a higher price).

There are of course other things than olives growing here, grapes of course that are just starting to leaf:

Meanwhile wild flowers suggest that spring is indeed here:

The landscape here is very rocky and one can only imagine the effort that must have gone into clearing these fields, either by hand or perhaps with the help of a cart and a mule. Those cleared rocks make up the low walls that line the fields and roadways and also the prehistoric structures that dot the countryside.

Finally, here are a couple of images of Ugento where, among other things, I had a wonderful dish of pureed favas and chicory.

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