23 Sep 2020

RASPBERRIES IN PIEDMONT, A 60-YEAR HISTORY

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In Cuneocronaca, Lucio Alciati retraced the introduction of raspberry cultivation in Piedmont in the 1960s and 1970s in the Cuneo valleys, recalling the protagonists and technical details of those years.

In a recent television programme dealing with gastro-agricultural issues, berries and, in particular, raspberries were mentioned.

As a farmers' representative rightly said at the microphones of this service, raspberries were once widely grown in the Alpine valleys and valley floors of the Cuneo area. Then they migrated, in specialised crops and with standardised varieties, to the plains.

The history of raspberries in our mountains goes back a long way. These aromatic fruits, picked from wild plants in the highlands and then sold to traders who came to pick them up in the evening, are mentioned or, better still, written about in captivating accounts collected in detailed local publications.

I vividly remember how, in my childhood (it was the 1970s), the Grana Valley in July, when the ruddy fruit was harvested, was transformed into a sparkling world of colours, scents and chatter.

Early in the morning,hordes of boys and girls on squeaky bicycles and sleepy-eyed, sleepy-eyed boys and girls would flood the valley road with a family mandate and, in rare cases, their own desire, to reach the raspberry orchard that awaited them laden with fiery fruit. So they could make some money for their own desires. All this was topped off by the clattering of brisk motor-cultivators and agile motor-carts as they frantically roamed the sunny country lanes.

Well, perhaps few people know that the specialised cultivation of raspberries, which then developed at least throughout the province, was the work of a fellow country man, a well-known inhabitant of Valgrana - a land of ingenuity. In my opinion, he should be deservedly recognised and remembered by our community.

Bernardino Lerda was already mentioned at the time as a far-sighted pioneer of what was and still is a very important economic resource for our and neighbouring areas.

The raspberry plant. How to grow it organically - Organic Farming

It was he who, in the early 1960s, introduced the so-called 'French' raspberries by bringing the first specimens 'in a suitcase' from nearby France, where he was working. That gesture, and then the enterprising cultivation, was the keystone that marked the transition of raspberry culture from wild harvesting to methodical and rational cultivation. Bernardino, in his admirable reserve, only hinted at this fascinating 'story of ours', telling me that it was now in the past. But fruit grows thanks to its roots, and so everything must be done to keep them fresh and alive. 

The 'French' raspberry adapted very well to our land and, in a short time, occupied many fields in the Grana valley and neighbouring areas.

Now only a few of these small, fragrant fruits remain, and they have been replaced by improved varieties to meet market demands. But for us (and not only for us) it all started there.



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