THE LUNGS OF ITALY: PUGLIA

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Our journey through the olive groves of Italy starts in the very heart of the olive growing regions: the heel of the boot, Puglia.
According to recent estimates, Puglia is the top producer of Italian olive oil and the third in the world after Andalusia and Tunisia.
Starting in the north, we find DOP Dauno. Then there’s DOP Terra d'Otranto in the south and DOP Terra di Bari, Terre Tarantine and Collina di Brindisi in between. This region is a veritable kaleidoscope of flavors that peak during the summer, particularly when set to the backdrop of these landscapes that stand out from the rest of the region.
All of Puglia is worth a visit. Andria is a must-see with Castel del Monte, built by Frederick II, the Holy Roman Emperor and King of Sicily, along with Alberobello with its characteristic trulli and traditional farmhouses of Brinidisi with their spectacular, centuries-old olive groves. Last but not least, we have Salento and Terra d’Otranto where you can experience the Baroque-style atmosphere of those rural lands, reflected in the waters of two of the most beautiful seas in Italy.
The main varieties of oil from Puglia are Peranzana, Ogliarola, Leccino, Cellina, Olivastra and, the most famous, Coratina, very common in the entire province of Bari where there are more than 83,000 producers of this nectar.
This variety also has the highest level of polyphenols – antioxidants that keep the oil from oxidizing – and linoleic acid, a fatty polyunsaturated acid in the Omega-6 family that helps the immune systems, protects against cancer and aids in the prevention of cardiovascular illnesses.
Some advice for all those producers who want to extract the very best oil from their olives: constantly check your trees for the olive fly during the hottest months, a tiny little insect that enters into the fruit, irreparably damaging the olive and giving it a sweet and sour, greasy taste. On the other hand, if you harvest your olives at just the right time, bring them to the olive press within twenty-four hours and store them in stainless steel silos – so much the better if stored in nitrogen in an inert environment – you will have obtained something truly special. The predominant flavors will be bitter but pleasant with an aftertaste of a spicy black or red pepper. This will ensure that your oil will go perfectly with a grilled steak and chicory or add a dash of elegance to wild onions cooked in hot ashes. Alternatively, try it on a rice salad with tomatoes, peas and seasonal baby greens or, to add flavor, drizzle some on a traditional maritati pasta dish with burrata and pachino.

Fausto Borella

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