Olive fly control
Well done. Collective praying resulted in a surprise snowfall!! Now if you could all just collectively bring about a good freeze and make it hang around for a while we could be saved!
While I have every faith in your collective powers, I thought it prudent to start making olive-fly traps for olive fly control this summer just in case Mother Nature’s not listening as she should. These are simple and inexpensive to make and if you start now you will be ready for when it is time to hang them in the trees. This is at the end of June because the flies start laying their eggs from July onwards. Depending on weather conditions this egg-laying period can extend as far as October so the traps will need to be inspected, emptied and refilled as necessary during that time.
The basis of the trap is of course to entice them away from the olives BEFORE they lay any eggs, with the lure of a sweet smelling food. Once you see the recipe for the liquid that we put in the traps you’ll see why they just can’t resist! Since last week we looked at the reasoning behind not using insecticides, this is at least a way of lessening the attack.
As you can see it is a very simple concept. Plastic bottle with wire hanger, a 1cm hole punctured or drilled at either side, between two yellow strips of tape because the colour yellow attracts insects (like in your vegetable patch where to help pollination and pest control you can never have too many yellow flowering plants.) Depending on how many olive trees you have you may want to start collecting your plastic bottles now. Remember to keep the lids because this lessens evaporation in those hot summer months.
And that sweet smelling food? Make a delicious mixture of water, ammonia and raw fish…mmmmm. For every 5 litres of water add a litre of ammonia and a couple of flaked up fresh sardines or anchovies. Put about a couple of inches of this mixture in the bottom of your bottles and screw the cap on. Hang one or two in every tree. Ideally they should be at a height of about 1.5 to 2 metres from ground level and on the south or southwest facing sides. If after ten days or so there are hardly any insects in there try repositioning the bottles. If they get very full of insects or the liquid has evaporated then they will need redoing.
This is the culprit..consider this it’s “wanted” poster.
I hope this article on olive fly control is of use to you. Anything we can do to protect our crops without ruining our world can’t be far wrong.
Carrots in marsala
A simple but delicious alternative to boiled carrots from Le Marche. Winter being the perfect excuse for putting a little fortification with your dinner. Once tried you wont go back
- 2/3 carrots
- 50g butter
- 1/2 glass marsala wine
- stem of fresh thyme
- salt and pepper to taste
- The quantities will depend on the numbers you have to feed. This is not a recipe where the quantities are critical, it is more about the cooking method so feel free to adjust to suit. Scrape the carrots to clean and cut in half then slice longitudinally into thick matchsticks, about 3/5 mm thick. Put the butter in a heavy bottomed pan and heat gently until melted then add the carrots. stir and cover, keep the heat on low for 10 minutes stirring occasionally.
- When the carrots start to soften turn up the heat and add the marsala, let the alcohol evaporate and then turn down the heat again and throw in the thyme and cook for a further 20 minutes or so uncovered unless the wine evaporates too soon in which case add a little water and cover. Ideally the carrots should be starting to colour a deeper red at the edges but not browned.
- This is a lovely contorno (side dish) for roast or grilled meats. The sweetness of the marsala permeates the carrots which will be soft and caramelised, a perfect complement to strongly flavoured meats.
Polenta evokes in me the stories of my grandfather his tales of hard times of war and times of hunger. Polenta in their era was a luxury that could be afforded only rarely. A a young boy listening to my grandfather’s stories I remember was like watching a black and white movie through his eyes. I saw ten, fifteen maybe even twenty people all gathered around a long wooden table in a farm house in the country. On the table was a large pot from which flowed steaming hot polenta. The group would enjoy together the only meal of the day. Today polenta recipes are basically very similar. Here is a version you can try, I suggest with seasonal ingredients of “Verza ripassata” cabbage and sausage to evoke those old stories of my Grandfather’s day
- 300/400g polenta
- 1 ltr salted boiling water
- In this variation I suggest combining polenta with other seasonal ingredients.
- To prepare the polenta boil a quart of salt water, just before the boil begin to add 300/400 g polenta flour a little at a time stirring constantly with a whisk. While cooking Polenta should have the consistency of cream, if it is too hard to add a little hot water. Once combined with the water and mixed to a smooth paste, cover and leave on low heat for 15-20 minutes stirring from time to time.
- At this time of year I serve polenta with "Verza ripassata" cabbage and sausage, with a generous sprinkling of Parmesan cheese, but the variations are many and are limited only by your imagination.
cabbage with sausage recipe
- 1kg cabbage
- 200g potatoes
- olive oil
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
- 3 italian sausages, de-skinned
- chilli (optional)
- rosemary sprigs
- thinly sliced fried purple potatoes
- Take a small whole green cabbage and remove the outermost, damaged leaves, then chop roughly and remove the hard central core of the cabbage, what we call "removing the bone". Now rinsed the cabbage thoroughly and boil in lightly salted water with 200 g of peeled potatoes. Meanwhile, in a skillet, fry the whole pealed garlic with two sprigs of rosemary in olive oil, when the garlic is golden brown remove it and crumble in the three sausages and cook them well and mash with a fork. The vegetables are cooked when the potatoes are crushed easily, at this point drain the pan and using a colander transfer the cabbage to a chopping board and chop finely. Add the cabbage to the sausage pan and braise for about thirty minutes, adding some of the cooking water as needed to prevent drying out. To serve add in the mashed potatoes, season with salt ad pepper and serve topped with the fried potatoes and fresh rosemary.
- To add spice to the dish add chilli to taste 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time.
Salt-brining….the procedure for producing home cured meats is a centuries-old tradition that is handed down from parent to child. I’m the latest in my family to have acquired the secrets for the best results for this seemingly easy but time demanding job. Here I will show you how to produce the famous and quite delicious “Lonza” (cured whole pork fillet). To start with you have to choose a cold time of the year, usually December to February, in the photographs you can see my lonza prepared just last weekend (second week in January). The whole cuts of meat are put under plenty of coarse salt for 36 hours which flavours it at the same time as drawing out a lot of water. After this time the salt is removed and the meat washed, first in cold water and then with wine flavoured with orange peel.
The next phase requires a lot of care because the Lonza will be inserted into the very well washed casings from the pig and then into net casing which are closely tied at each end. The thus prepared lonza has now to cure for 3 or 4 months in a dry airy place to obtain the ideal conditions for drying and curing. I would tell you the secret place I store my lonza, but then I would have to…
Olive pruning in Le Marche
Here in Le Marche the level of care that olive trees receive from the locals is on a par with that of royalty! Trees aren’t even planted until they have chosen the right mix of trees for the type and quantity of oil that they want. There are over 300 different types of olives in Italy rendering a huge variety of oils to suit personal tastes.
Previously to buying the trees the best plot of land is chosen according to their needs; sun, plenty of it,to ripen the fruit and encourage growth; ventilation to lessen fungal attacks; fertile and firm soil, accessible by tractor if possible to speed up the maintenance of both the soil and the trees.
From their first year in situ the critical part of shaping the trees begins. Olive pruning techniques vary all over the world and even throughout Italy itself. A research team at the University of Ancona in Le Marche has been developing for over ten years a new approach to pruning that I was lucky enough to learn about on a course last year. Traditionally olives have been pruned to the shape of a red wine glass with a fringe all the way around, lopped flat across the top and opened out to let the all important sun into the middle of the tree. New thinking has it that the tree should be allowed to grow to its’ optimum height, forming a shape more like an ice cream cone. The tree will naturally fight you to shoot upwards every year and this is wasting the tree’s energy which could be put into the fruiting branches which will shoot from the sides. I was warned that when I prune my own trees in the new way I will have a lot of negative comments from the traditionalists but now that I am on my second year of this method I notice that some of my neighbours have pruned half of theirs in the old style and half in the new. It will be interesting to see what they opt for next year.
If the new cultivars of disease resistant trees are planted in a sunny aerated spot and given a twice yearly feed of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, zinc, manganese and iron and pruned yearly then they should be fairly problem free and this has been the case generally…until now..with climate change; no surprises for guessing that one. The olive fly is a regular problem for olive farmers but usually a few pheromone traps among the branches are enough to lure away the females and keep the worms inside the fruit down to a level that doesn’t really affect the oil quality when pressed. This year however saw last year’s larvae (hibernating underground) not being killed off as the winter was so warm. The increase of flies meant a lot more damage to the cell structure of the olive fruit and this was compounded by a very damp summer which allowed fungal diseases (not normally a huge issue for the very tough olive fruits) into the flesh and at last count around Le Marche the failure rate of last year’s harvest was 90%..unheard of in living memory. We are buying in imported olive oil for the first time since moving here and it’s just not the same.
So far this winter has followed the same patterns as the last. If we don’t have a substantial spell of very cold weather and snow on the ground we could be looking at total destruction of the crop again. The residue of last years fungal diseases can be treated with winter and early spring spraying of copper and sulphur (non water soluble and therefore doesn’t enter the fruit) but the only way to keep the fly under control is insecticide, which is water soluble and pretty much renders your oil inedible unless you are partial to glowing in the dark. So my last line of today’s blog is pray..pray for some snow for us…pray that global warming is reined in by the powers that be and pray that at least next year Italy will be back in business producing polyphenol rich oil that works miracles on weary bodies and their tastebuds.