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Themes:     Culture & Tradition (26)  
Tags:    Nature     South Tyrol     Summer
Sonia Sbolzani Monday, 28 July 2014

Wonderful vegetable gardens

The house vegetable gardens to be found in South Tyrol are a microcosim of the the varied landscape in the region, a small but essential part of the mosaic representing the farming community, it proud of its uses and traditions in keeping with the flows of Nature. As Michela Pasquali puts it in her book “Südtiroler Paradies. Orti di montagna” (Linaria, Roma 2012), these plots of land are “pleasant on the eye and pleasant on the  palate too” and are still today representative of a strong cultural element: just as are the meadows  and the woods and the farmsteads, they too are a distinctive element in creating the harmony so vital to the local identity.
Wonderful vegetable gardens
„The vegetable garden has always been the true alpine garden, the unchallenged domain of the women folk. The arrangement and the choice of  plant is a sure indication of the person responsible and her ideas and thinking.“
Rich in vegetable variety, full of colour in the flowers present, and cared for in a tender loving way by the locals themselves, they are symbolic of the attachment local folk have to their roots in rural communities, an attachment between land and inhabitants which has developed and strengthened over the centuries.
The vegetable garden has always been the true alpine garden, the unchallenged domain of the women folk. Again such affirmation is supported by Michela Pasquali, she saying: “the image evoked is that of a small patch of land in harmony with the surrounding landscape. Here, more than anywhere else, the local womenfolk can express their tastes and preferences, emphasising traditions, necessity, and passion. In some instances one can witness the instictive aspect, a little chaotic at times with flowers and vegetables mixing between themselves, whereas in other cases meticulous order is to the fore with all items in regimented lines. The arrangement and the choice of  plant is a sure indication of the person responsible and her ideas and thinking. Nowadays the women in the mountains whilst still respectful of traditions look to the future and are far removed from the stereotype which would have them limited to their farmstead role. Often they give a significant contribution to the realtionship betwen territory and produce and to the running of micro and small to medium size enterprises”.
The plants and vegetables cultivated in these mountain gardens are not exclusively destined for consumption purposes for they are also the basis of many local remedies, as well as taking on an emblematic role in uses and customs of yesteryear, even if some of these are now unfortunately but a memory. Keeping such in mind it is not surprising that the naming of the plants and vegetables is an interesting study in its own right. As example we cite Polemonium coeruleum, known as the ladder to the sky, and to Diplacus glutinosus, better known as South Tyrol bells, this due to the shape of its flowers.
The vegetable gardens may be different one from the other, but what they have in common is the proof they provide that with a little application and a sense of responsibility  one can not only survive but can can prosper and live well in this world of Nature. It is a blessing therefore  that many farmworkers in South Tyrol wish to persist with the preservation of a rich botanic patrimony made up of flavours of yesteryear with the specific intent to protect the landscape and also to give a thought to the development of a sustainable agricultural and tourism future. To safeguard this cultural patrimony associations, schools, museums, have sprung up, they all keen to collect and give out information in support of this noble cause.

Sonia Sbolzani
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