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Discover south tyrol
The pleasure of tasting
Holidays in the South Tyrolean farmsteads
Chef in Camicia
Oliver Peña Luque
Basile De Wulf
A chat with our farmers
In conversation with Ricky Huber Ortler
An expanse of white and pink which covers the hill from the valley floor up to the summit: the sight of
South Tyrol’s apple orchards in bloom is the stuff of legends
. A spectacle which is far more than just a sight for sore eyes or a photo opportunity: it is the
prelude to an abundant harvest in the autumn
. Various factors are involved in the transformation of a flower into a red Marlene
apple; these include
pollination by the bees and night-time temperatures that are not excessively rigid
. But that’s not all. The delicate flowers and shoots are exposed to various sources of danger. Now I’m going to tell you how I protect them.
Hi, my name is
Ricky Huber Ortler
and I am a glass artist, even if for years I have worked as an
apple farmer and ambassador
. I design, decorate and hand paint the bottles of our company distillery. The ones used for our “Delia” apple acquavite, for example, are all unique pieces.
I manage the
company in Eppan - Appiano
with my husband Toni and our two children. It is hard work, all year round! In the spring, when the orchards blossom, we have to keep our eyes open, also at night.
of the tree is a very important moment in the life cycle of the apple. It
is the basis for the birth of the fruit
. When the tree flowers, it puts on its best clothes in order to
attract bees, bumblebees and wasps and facilitate pollination
When a bee lands on a flower to suck its nectar, the pollen remains stuck to its legs. When it moves to the next flower, the insect transports it and aids pollination.
Bees play a fundamental role in this process
. The wind also contributes to pollination, but the precision of the industrious bees has no equal.
: when they find a good source of nectar they concentrate on that type of flower. Bumblebees and wasps are less constant.
Only complete pollination guarantees well-proportioned apples
, otherwise the fruits grow crooked or develop only on one side.
At flowering time we work closely with beekeepers
bring their hives into the orchards
we try to avoid using plant protection products that are harmful to the bees
. We want and we must protect these precious insects!
Apple blossom comes in groups. The
blossoms first and
produces the best fruit
. Question: what percentage of blossom must be fertilised to obtain a sufficient quantity of ripe apples? Answer: between three and eight percent! Nature is generous:
the entire ripening process, from the flower to the fruit, is delicate
and things can go wrong.
For me a flower is a bit like an open wound: viruses, bacteria, fungal spores and other parasites can get in and cause harm.
But we keep a close eye on them
During flowering, night frosts can result in small fruits or unattractive frost rings. In worst case scenarios, the flowers freeze completely and the entire harvest is compromised. Luckily there is a
frost alert system
! When the alarm sounds we have to take rapid action, at any time. My husband and one of my children go to the orchard to
turn on the drip irrigation system
. All we can do at this point is wait.
The water freezes on the flowers only at a specific temperature. Not too warm but not too cold either: sub-zero, ideally. What happens?
The water covers the buds and freezes to create a layer of ice
. And this is what protects them: the water that freezes releases energy, known as heat of
prevents the internal temperature of the layer of ice from going below zero
. The irrigation system is turned off as soon as the sun melts the ice.
Not all farmers have enough water to perform anti-frost irrigation. In at-risk areas some use specific
or light little fires.
The heat generated by this expanse of flames increases the air temperature, protecting the precious buds
. Believe me: when the night frost season ends we all breathe a sigh of relief. But the work continues.
In June, when the little fruits form, we get ready to
the apples, leaving two young apples for each bud and eliminating the rest. In this way we avoid overloading the plant. It is an activity that requires a lot of sensitivity: if too many apples are attached to the stalk, the fruits do not receive enough nutritious substances and remain small. Meanwhile, too much thinning out would lead to excessive growth. I
f we are able to pick nice apples in the autumn it is because our efforts to protect the blossom have borne fruit!
A WORD WITH OUR FARMERS
Hardly anyone knows as much about the cultivation of apples as our farmers. We met our experts for a short chat.
Discover south tyrol
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