Mountain Potatoes

IMG_1767Which is the most flavourful potato according to chefs?  The one which is cultivated over 1,000 metres above sea level in the mountains of Sila, in Calabria. This potato, enrolled in the register of mountain products, has a vegetable secret, which allows obtaining a product characterized by an excellent flavour. This secret is its peel, the thickest and most waterproof one among the potatoes grown in Europe, a real barrier to defend itself against large fluctuations in temperature. This makes the potato less susceptible to bacterial attack, and concentrates its flavour and starches. The Sila potato shows a creamy yellow colour inside and its flavour is very marked and pleasant, with sweet notes enhanced by such cooking as frying and the oven one.

Starch, starch, and starch again
In addition to its tough and strong peel, the flavour of this particular potato is given by the large amount of starch it contains. This allows having a tasty and versatile product in the kitchen, which releases its sweet taste and absorbs such seasonings as oil and spices. This is a perfect product for slow cooking as well as for recipes of South Italy.

Full taste without chemistry
3The use of spring water for irrigating the fields, large temperature ranges between day and night, which reduce almost to zero the attack of parasites, low winter temperatures, which allow preserving the product without the use of chemical anti-budding treatments, represent a set of features thanks to which these mountain potatoes are characterized by a completely natural sweetness and has become an ecological and economic protection for a harsh and beautiful land, where agriculture, which in the past was a familial manner of micro economics, now is a way for telling to the world the excellences of the less known and more isolated South Italy.

A long history of sweetness

The first official evidence of potato cultivation on the plateau of Sila dates back to the nineteenth century. This production has always been an important economic resource for this area, and for this reason the peasant families have passed down for decades from generation to generation the techniques for producing it. Today, as much as 1,200 families are involved in its cultivation. The Sila potato, protected by the IGP mark of the European Community, is produced in six different varieties, and looks round or oval, with a gauge which ranges between 3 and 7 cm.

The potato’s district

The production of potatoes takes place in an uncontaminated environment in the heart of the National Park of Sila. Sila Plateau, located among the provinces of Cosenza, Catanzaro and Crotone, in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea, with an average altitude of about m 1,300, with its 20,000 hectares of soils cultivated with potatoes is one of the largest districts in Europe for the production of this sweet tuber. Nature is the undisputed protagonist of the scenes of Sila, dominated by the immense forest of beeches and conifers which covers it.IMG_1752

Travelling to Europe
The Sila potato, from being a mountain product, has become an excellence recognized at European level. In a few decades, this tasty and sweet potato won mainly British and German markets.
The farmers produce it by means of integrated pest management methods, by applying strict rules in order to guarantee the standard of quality and naturalness of the potato. A technical structure, formed by highly experienced agronomists, assists the companies in the process of growing, from soil preparation to harvest. The harvesting takes place in the months of September and October, when the temperatures on the Sila Plateau are already quite low. This is the ideal time for starting the preservation stage.

Minimalist packaging
It consists in sacks and nets at sight for bringing the potatoes around Italy and Europe. They are simple, recyclable, durable. The peel itself preserves the quality of the product. The brand which accompanies the potatoes of Sila strongly reminds the mountains of Calabria, with their peaks and plateaus. This is a simple, minimized packaging, for reminding that it is a natural product, coming from a rural area, where the agricultural tradition is combined with technology in order to propose the flavour of a unique potato.

Potatoes ‘a la carte’
The Sila potato has no competitors with regard to frying. Its richness in starch, and pleasant and inviting scents, contained in its fibres, are enhanced by frying in hot oil. Many traditional recipes have been brought from Calabria in the world, thanks to emigrants: pasta, potatoes and eggs; baked pasta and potatoes; pasta, potatoes and marrows; pasta, potatoes, fennel and meat; potatoes, garlic, oregano, ‘pecorino (sheep’s milk cheese)’. This is the traditional path of the recipes of Calabria, but their great versatility and very marked flavour allowed the potatoes of Sila becoming main characters also for preparing sweets and especially for accompanying fish-based courses in the most refined tables. There are many five-star restaurants, especially in England, which have a direct link with local producers in order to have at their tables a product they consider as irreplaceable in high level preparations.

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