Activist of Biodiversity: A conversation with Quinto Sapore
Quinto Sapore is a farm located on the Tuscan / Umbrian border outside the beautiful medieval walls of Citta della Pieve. It is an unbelievably thoughtful project, aiming to interpret and renew the agri-food tradition towards an indispensable healthy future.
They grow a broad selection of vegetables farming organically and applying principles of biodynamics and they select varieties that are suited to adapt to the constant climate change in order to minimise, if not eliminate any type of treatment.
With love for the land and with the awareness of being tenacious guardians of a rich yet vulnerable world, Alessandro takes care of the land he cultivates, respecting traditions, the territory and the values of his family.
Your project seems to be incredibly personal. It comes very much from the heart. What led you to make the decisions you’ve made in steering your farm in this direction?
I come from a completely different world from that of agriculture. Until three years ago I was moving between Rome, Milan and London, I worked in the world of Cinema and Advertising. The passion for the countryside, however, was carried in my heart since I was a child. When I was 9 my parents bought a small piece of land near Città della Pieve and every weekend my brother and I were catapulted into this enchanted place. We spent our days with the gentleman who made a small vegetable garden for my parents, Renato. It was he who first transmitted to us the passion for nature, cultivating vegetables starting from the seed, spending hours in the woods looking for mushrooms. It was also then that my brother and I started collecting seeds. Whenever we found some particular tomato, some “strange” melon, we kept the seeds and tried to planted them in our garden. So, let’s say that this recent history took root many years ago. Then when I opened the company and I had to start getting serious, I always let myself be guided by the love I have for nature, in all its forms, the ability it has to surprise me every day, the desire to do something right, something that could be an example to leave a better world than that which is mine, ours, past generations. This is why I coined a term that could reflect this concept: AGRICONCURE, doing agriculture, but with love, with all possible care.
I’m particularly interested in your tomatoes having tasted a selection of your varieties. How did you come to select the different varieties you have planted?
I start from a rather large personal collection, more than a hundred varieties. Of course, I’ve done a lot of research over the past three years. We have more than 160 varieties of seeds. Some of these I bought from volunteers looking for ancient seeds that have disappeared around Italy, others were given to me by local farmers, others are the result of crossbreeding that was born on the farm, what bees don’t do !! The latter are the ones on which I focus the most interest. Between 8 and 10 new truths appear each year. I isolate the fruits, when they are very ripe I collect them and put the seeds aside. Before having tasted one, I mark all its characteristics, especially its resistance to pathogens and its ability to adapt to constant climate changes and I photograph it. From the following year I begin to stabilize the breed of those that seem most interesting to me. It is a long job and requires a lot of patience.
Can you highlight a tomato variety that we might not be familiar with but that you believe is worth tasting?
Absolutely, it’s called Brazil (pictured), or at least that’s the name I decided to give it. It is streaked with yellow, black and green and was my first cross. In addition to aesthetic beauty, it is a very productive and resistant tomato, cut in half you can see the completely green pulp which would suggest a not completely ripe tomato, and instead it is of an incredible sweetness, almost fruity.
What’s the most surprising tomato dish you’ve ever tasted? A mixed tomato salad, dressed with our extra virgin olive oil, three types of basil leaves (purple, Greek, Ligurian) and a sprinkling of pepper. When the raw material is of quality, nothing is needed except to enjoy it in the simplest way possible. Trying to distinguish the aromas, the taste, the consistency of 20 different tomatoes assembled in a composition; that I could define a melody, as in music.
In your opinion, what’s the greatest risk as we look to the near term future in terms of food production? The biggest risk is not being ready for what will inevitably happen very soon. I come back to talk about Climate Change again because it is a topic that I care a lot about. There is an urgency that perhaps not many perceive. Unfortunately, an irreversible mechanism has now been triggered that will lead us to have a drastic change in our habits within a decade. Thinking that we can continue along the path we have always moved on is crazy, if not stupid. It is us agricultural producers who must be the first to totally change the way of farming keeping in mind three types of sustainability: environmental, social and economic. I can assure you that those who follow this path will be the only ones to survive, on the other hand Darwin has always emphasised the close connection between survival and adaptability, so we must adapt to a world that has completely changed compared to that of our parents and grandparents.
Perhaps I’m biased, but why does an Italian tomato taste so much better than any other?
We have the blatant luck of living in a country where tomatoes find the perfect mix of sunlight, heat and quantity of water. Then of course it all depends on who grows that tomato. I assure you that we too can find tomatoes that don’t taste of anything, tomatoes from intensive agriculture, tomatoes that have only the shape of this wonderful fruit, often perfect but that hide slavery, poisons, a mere pursuit of profit.
If you are in the area, Quinto Sapore is certainly worth a visit www.quintosapore.it