Vegetable garden – maize – Formenton otto file

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Finally a semi-decent crop from the giornaledibarganews vegetable garden.  This afternoon there was a time enough and the weather was kind enough to pick  this year’s crop of Formenton otto file –  the 8-row maize (Zea Mays) of Garfagnana, locally also known as “Formentone” which was once widely cultivated throughout the valley, exclusively for use as food. Later it almost completely disappeared as a result of the depopulation of the mountain areas and the abandoning of crop farming. In recent times, the rediscovery and renewed popularity of typical and ancient products has convinced certain farmers of the region, who had continued to grow it, to devote special care to its cultivation, avoiding “contamination” with other varieties offering greater yield but inferior quality. It is a herbaceous plant, growing to a height of about two metres, bearing one or two ears per stem. The ears are long and covered by many coats of leaves. The mature kernels are an orangey yellow colour, with slight, more or less intense shading, round and fairly large. This crop does not have a high yield, but boasts nutritional features which now distinguish it as an excellent maize for polenta. – source – AurelioBaretini

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The next step is to dry off the maize by putting it out in the sun during the day and bringing it in during the night.  Then the  individuals seeds will be separated  and laid out on mats  once again during the day,  turning the seeds over at regular intervals to make sure that they are thoroughly dried out.

Then it’s time to grind them ready to be made  into the local dish, polenta


Last year the Formenton otto file which we had stored during the winter was attacked by insects making it unusable and so we had to find some more.

Who better than Alvaro Ferrari the President of the Associazione produttori Formenton Otto File Garfagnana e Valle del Serchio who has been growing and preserving the Formenton otto file for many years.

We called into his farm and laboratory at Ponte di Campia  at the start the season to pick up some hints on how to successfully grow Formenton otto file and information on how to keep it uncontaminated by other lesser maize crops.

Alvaro Ferrari Presidente dell’Associazione produttori Formenton Otto File Garfagnana e Valle del Serchio titolare dell’ Azienda Agricola “ IL VIGNERON ” talking about formenton otto file (in Italiano)

Back in February 2009 we published an article at the start of the project that was to become the giornaledibarganews vegetable garden.
In that article we wrote the following words: Gradually the economic problems besetting world finances and markets starts to make itself felt here in Barga. The “happy island” is not imune after all. Effectively we are all connected up and intertwined – its a world market economy after all. The far extremes of the disposable society where goods are constructed marketed, sold, used and then thrown away once broken or a newer model supersedes them has come home to roost. The system has now broken. Whose fault it is is up for discussion but what is clear is that huge shifts in expectations are about to take place. Things are not going to be the same ever again.

It is time to get the spade out and start digging. We are talking about a market garden, a vegetable patch – the orto.
Over the next few months we will be documenting the progress, or otherwise, of the barganews vegetable garden as we move from a hazy project on a sheet of paper to fresh vegetables delivered to the kitchen sometime this summer (hopefully)

How true those words have turned out to be as recent events here in Europe and Italy have shown.

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Ron Gauld
Ron Gauld
7 years ago

It is disappointing to read of the poor crop of potatoes but at least your family will have polenta to eat this winter and you can collect chestnuts…..just like contadini in olden times.

Keep up the good work Keane and Tiziana!