“There is a sense of independence that surrounds life in the mountains, a feeling of intimacy and isolation, almost of domination. It is a peace that is the fruit of the immensity”. In this way the American writer Tara Westover remembers her childhood in the mountains, surrounded by a wonderful and fragile nature at the same time.
It is in pursuit of that peacefulness that more and more people, often young, choose to change their lives and go in search of rhythms, colours and flavours that cannot be found elsewhere.
Among these, I am intrigued by the story of Matteo and Nicole, a young couple who moved to Sauris, a small jewel of our region, 5 years ago, to run the family B&B but above all to resume the tradition of the organic vegetable garden “Gorte” – vegetable garden in saurano – where for a long time in the past medicinal and aromatic plants were harvested in the wild or cultivated in the gardens to prepare ointments and decoctions.
“A family tradition…or rather, a family tradition of most families in Sauris”, Matteo confesses to me.
Even his mother, in fact, has always produced ointments and herbal teas at home for winter sickness and occasional aches and pains: it is for this reason that he too, after many years working as a gardener in Friuli, decided to leave the certainty of a permanent job and launch himself into the challenge of a life in the mountains, immersed, and it has to be said, in nature. A challenge that Matteo faces with Nicole, his young girlfriend, also courageous in leaving her life in the city to follow a project of life and love.
CULTIVATING MEDICINAL PLANTS, AN ANCIENT ALPINE TRADITION
Medicinal plants and herbs are remedies that nature generated even before man existed.
The ancients had a direct and daily relationship with nature, so much so that they knew which plants or herbs to use, experiencing their beneficial or toxic effects on their skin. Precisely for this reason, in the ancient pharmaceutical laboratories, the active ingredients extracted from medicinal, aromatic and perfume plants were extracted for use in folk medicine. Due to the climate and altitude, medicinal plants have always been cultivated in the Alpine regions: first in the protected gardens of churches and monasteries and then in the home gardens of farmers and numerous family gardens. In Sauris this is even truer. In the past, in fact, the Sauris community remained isolated for long periods of winter without the possibility of trade and commerce, so knowing the plants and their virtues was fundamental for ancient medical therapy as it represented the only solution for curing illnesses. The ideal context of cultivation then did the rest.
An altitude of 1400 m a.s.l., the wide temperature range and the quality of the soil, particularly suitable for production, have always favoured the passing on of tradition.
NO POISONS, THE CHOICE OF BIOLOGIC AGRICOLTURE
Around the splendid house where they live, with its typical Sauran wooden architecture, there are the fields where Matteo and Nicole grow chamomile, lemon balm, mallow, peppermint, echinacea and arnica which are then dried to produce herbal teas with authentic Alpine scents.
At the basis of this great work is respect for nature and the principles of organic farming.
The farm does not use pesticides or chemical fertilizers but works to protect the integrity of the plant. “We try to preserve the fertility of the soil with techniques that protect the balance of the earth and we dry at low temperatures to ensure that the herbs preserve their aroma and maintain the active principles that they contain”.
All the processing of the herbs is carried out in a small laboratory: the herbs are peeled by hand, dried and combined in fragrant herbal teas with evocative names: “We decided to call our infusions Tuningle, Nenele, Greatle, names of strong women belonging to our family“: I chose to buy the home herbal tea, the Pà Mairlan and sipping it, in the evening, my thoughts turn to Sauris…impossible not to relax…!
A part of the harvest is also sent to specialized laboratories for the creation of a particular line of natural cosmetics: Arnica montana, known for its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, the marigold cream, excellent soothing for chapped and reddened skin, just to name a few. On the site at this link you can consult all products.
SUMMER VISITS TO THE FLOWER FIELDS
Matteo tells me that during the months of July and August it is possible to take guided visits to the vegetable garden and the flower fields: I promised myself to return to Sauris for this experience, which must be a blaze of blooms, the culmination of a year-round work.
After all, knowing medicinal plants is a bit like entering an ancestral, magical world, nourished by ancient knowledge.
Echinacea purpurea, for example, is a plant with a splendid flower, which is why it is often used in gardens as an ornamental plant for its showy and abundant summer flowering. The Indians of North America, place of origin, used its root against snake bites, fevers and hard-to-heal wounds. The first settlers of the American continent who observed these uses adopted the plant as a remedy for colds and flu. Today the knowledge and appreciation of echinacea for its immuno-stimulant action, i.e. to stimulate and strengthen the body’s defences against infections, is widespread.
Not to mention the Arnica montana that Matteo cultivates for its extraordinary anti-inflammatory powers. Known since ancient times, it was even celebrated by Goethe who spoke of it in extraordinary terms: “When the battle between life and death began within me, I felt that the armies of life, with this flower on their banner, opened a breach by force and prepared a defeat for the hesitant mortal and threatening enemy. Rejuvenated by the healing, I praise it immensely, but it is the tireless nature that gives life to this flower, brings healing and unceasingly regenerates it.”
Stories, knowledge and nature: a couple of hours listening to Matteo regenerate me. “Often tourists tell us that this place is a paradise” he tells me “The idea of offering pleasant moments is the greatest satisfaction; being able to cultivate without poisons, respecting the ways and times of nature, is somehow our choice to take care of the environment and this extraordinary landscape.”
If you pass by Sauris, then go for a walk along the fields of Pà Mairlan, maybe you will meet Matteo who is willing to tell and share: you will not only find scented fields, herbal teas, salts and creams. You will get to know a hard and demanding job that is also a life choice. A way to take care of the mountain, making it more liveable and more experienced. Both for yourself and for all the people who decide to visit these places, treading the mule tracks and breathing in the enchanted atmosphere of unspoilt nature.
PA’ MAIRLAN FARM: USEFUL CONTACTS
If you would like to try Matteo and Nicole’s products or simply contact them for more information about their activities, we are happy to leave you their contacts:
Ospitalità, alloggi e B&B
33020 Sauris di Sopra, 42 (UD)
tel. 388 179 0984
tel. 347 529 1433
“Keep planting your seeds, because you’ll never know which ones will grow… maybe they all will Einstein.” A. Einstein