Umbria Hazelnuts: the Heart of the Problem
The “heart of the problem” is the hazelnut itself; ironically, the idiomatic expression “the heart of the problem,” is translated as “il nocciolo del problema” in Italian, i.e., “the hazelnut of the problem.”
A growing movement in Umbria and in nearby Latium is set on blocking the conversion of farm lands to the lucrative (for the land owner) cultivation of hazelnuts. This would be disastrous for the many small farmers who rent land from large land-owners.
Mass cultivation of hazelnuts would alter the varied landscapes of central Italy as woods, shrubs (ah, that yellow broom), and wildflowers – how to imagine our landscapes without poppies? – would give way to plowing for hazelnut groves:
The chocolate industries around the world need hazelnuts (and Italy is second only to Turkey in production). And just consider how many hazelnuts must be in a jar of Nutella, which is becoming ever more popular, not less:
And not only Ferrero features hazelnuts in many a chocolate temptation, for the buonissimi Venchi chocolates of Piedmont (also a hazelnut-producing region) and Socado (of the Veneto region) also often star hazelnuts:
….as do Belgian chocolates, too:And of course, we in Umbria, savor the goodness of Perugina chocolates (once owned by the Spagnoli family of Perugia, now by Nestle’ in Switzerland). A favorite dark chocolate bar highlights hazelnuts.
Cultivation is destined to increase but a grassroots movement in Umbria and Latium to halt massive monocultura of the hazelnuts has taken off. In early March, proponents of biodiversity – many of them local farmers with small landholdings or working rented land – met in Orvieto at the all-day event, I Noccioli del Problema, to learn more about the impact on the land of monoculture.
The mayor of Orvieto opened the morning convegno and speakers included environmentalists and university science professors. A prime proponent of the project, Alice Rohrwacher, Italian film director (and sister of Alba Rorwacher, noted actress) was a principal organizer of the event (their parents cultivate land not farm from nearby Lake Bolsena, Latium).
Pino and I roamed the market with our son, Keegan, helping out on the I Noccioli del Problema convention along with his wife, Francesca (who was helping sell the nocciolo bags when this photo was taken):
All the goods for sale were products of small, local farms: honey, olive oils, wines, fresh eggs, vegetables, jams and sauces from their fruit trees, cheeses of their goats and sheep, breads and pies from their wheat and farro:
Click here for more on Orvieto enticements
Read about a favorite Orvieto eating spot – not far from Palazzo del Popolo
Read more here about Alice Rorhwacher