An expanse of rolling hillsides covered by rows of fruit trees; this is how many people picture the Val di Non. Our valley is the broadest in the whole region and it is impossible to think about it without thinking of apples. It is less well known that apple growing only began in the last 200 years in the Val di Non; before 1850, there was no trace of an apple tree in the valley, apart from the odd wild one. Up until that point, farming here was focused chiefly on mulberries, buckwheat and vines.
The rapid spread of diseases affecting these crops meant many families were forced to leave the valley, silently condemning it to its apparent destiny of mass depopulation. The idea of planting apple trees arose by chance, a desperate attempt by a few visionaries, a gamble which was to really pay off.
In a short space of time, the meadows were given over to orchards, leading to an abundant harvest that was able to meet the needs of locals, allow for exports and helped to repopulate the valley thanks to the ever-increasing volume of work.
The Val di Non found itself becoming a centre of excellence for apple-growing at high altitudes thanks to a unique combination of favourable environmental factors. And particularly during World War II, this success, which continues to grow and evolve today, speaks of a community which has a deep bond with the land and its fruit, reward for its hard work and dedication.
In the Orchard: wandering among the apple trees at Romallo
Spring is an unmissable time of year in the Val di Non, especially around the end of April and the start of May. An explosion of millions of tiny pink and white petals, like confetti, making the valley look like an artist’s palette, or an impressionist painting. What better way to enjoy this spectacular display of nature than with a stroll among the rows and rows of fruit trees, gazing in wonder at the colours.
“In the Orchard” is a walk for families, suitable for young and old alike, a journey of discovery through the world of apples. A 5 km loop, suitable also for bikes and e-bikes, starting in the village of Romallo.
But above all it is fun and educational. The work of the farmer, the insects which inhabit the orchards, the diseases which can affect the plants and the vagaries of the weather: with games and information board at the end of the walk, the world of apples will not hold any more secrets!
Not in the mood for a walk? In that case, we recommend the historic orchard in Cles, a big garden where the Val di Non’s oldest varieties of apples are grown. Created in collaboration with the Fondazione Edmund Mach agricultural research institute, it focuses on the evolution of fruit growing in the valley with the aim of promoting the Val di Non’s rich cultural heritage. Renetta Canada, Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, the list goes on!
The orchard has around 80 different varieties of apples.
THE PERFECT REFRESHMENT NONNA MARIA’S APPLE STRUDEL
After a day spent outside among the fruit trees, is there any better way to round off the day with a healthy and authentic snack based on the traditional apple strudel? We recommend Nonna Maria’s version, the one I remember from my childhood, which filled the house with a sweet smell as it cooked in the stove. Something you could prepare in the chalet whilst reading, perhaps first thing in the morning before heading out for a walk.
The quantities listed are for making two strudels but don’t worry about making too much, they are so good they will disappear in no time at all!
For the dough:
- 200 g of flour,
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil,
- 1 glass of warm water,
- a pinch of salt
For the filling:
10 Golden Delicious or Renetta Canada apples,
- 80 g raisins,
- 6 tablespoons of apricot jam,
- 2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon,
- a small glass of grappa,
- pine nuts or hazelnuts to taste,
- the grated zest of half a lemon,
- 1 egg yolk to glaze
Sieve the flour onto a work surface and form a well in the centre, pour in the oil and salt and gradually add the warm water. Work the ingredients with your hands for a few minutes until you have a soft and smooth mixture; place the dough in a warm bowl, cover and leave for around half an hour.
For the filling, peel and slice the apples and place in a bowl. Add the raisins which you have first softened water, the jam, the cinnamon, the grappa, pine nuts or hazelnuts and the lemon zest. Mix well and leave to steep.
Meanwhile, line a baking tray with baking paper. Divide the dough into two and roll the two parts out on a lightly floured surface until you have two rectangles, a few metres thick. Spread the apple mixture over the rolled-out dough and, starting from the bottom corner, carefully roll it up.
Once you have rolled up the strudel, press down the ends to prevent the filling from leaking. Place it on the baking sheet and brush with the beaten egg yolk. Cook the strudel in the oven for around 40 minutes at 220°C.
The wood-fired oven in the chalet will give it that authentic, rustic taste! What is Nonna Maria’s secret? Mixing caster sugar in a blender with a sachet of vanilla essence.
Once the strudel has cooled, sprinkle it with this sugar and just wait for the wonderful aroma it creates! But if you don’t want to cook, don’t worry, we can recommend the finest strudel in the whole of Fondo!