Pielach Valley Dirndl

Ark of taste
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The heat-loving Cornelian cherry bush grows up to 6 metres high and lives on the south facing hills of the Pielach valley. It is a formative element of the varied and lively cultural landscape of the valley. With a near biblical age of up to 300 years old, the crop is carefully and lovingly harvested by farmers with traditional hand made nets. During periods of mild weather, the Cornelian Cherry bush opens its flowers as early as February. Should you be out and about in the Pielach valley in late winter/ early spring, you would see the yellow bushes shining on the hillside. The elongated oval fruits change colour in August, depending of the type of fruit, from coral red to almost black. The fruit is rich in vitamin C and its taste ranges from sweet, to juicy and slightly tart. Cornus mas are spread throughout mid-southern and eastern Europe and the Caucasus area. From Greece, across the Dalmatians, the Alpine Eastern Roof and up to Thuringia, the Cornelian Cherry appears in great abundance throughout this cultural landscape. Within this natural habitat a continuous genetic exchange takes place. Generally the Cornelian Cherry population of the Pielach valley can be separated by fruit size and ripening time from the Cornelian Cherry origin of the Balkans and Caucasus area. In contrast to this Cornelian Cherry population, the Pielach Valley cherry ripens early and has a smaller fruit. The harvest begins on (as we would all know) Lady’s Day (August 15th) and is finished by mid September. The early ripening is an important natural acclimatization process, due to the weather in the foothills of the Alps and is also encouraged through conscious selection methods (selection of early ripening fruit types) by the local residents. Today we can differentiate around 20 fruit types in the Pielach valley. They vary in colour, size and the length of ripening. The early ripening types are called ‘Fra – Dirndl’ (they ripen by Lady’s Day, the 15th of August), the later ripening ones are called ‘Reserl-Dirndl’ (which ripen by Saint Theresa’s Feast day, the 15th of October). The cultivated forms of the Cornelian Cherry are big and fruity. They ripen late and are not so suitable for planting in the Pielach valley. Take for instance the widely spread type called ‘Jolico’ that does not ripen fully there. The Pielach Valley is part of the region ‘Mostviertel’, located on the foothills of the Alps in Lower Austria. It has a difficult climate and its agricultural production is limited to livestock breeding (dairy, meat, poultry, sheep). In the milder, lower reaches of the river Pielach the cultivation of ‘Mostbirnen’ (pears used for the production of cider) is common. The Cornelian Cherry does not feature in the natural woodland landscape of the Pielach valley. The Cornelian Cherry follows the cultivated land and is, in the Pielach valley, dependent on its special form of land husbandry. It thrives well on extensively kept pastureland. The usage of the pasture, the thinning of bushes/ trees, the meager ground, a dry warm place and the lack of shadow from competing higher trees creates conditions under which the Cornelian Cherry can brilliantly assert itself. Re-forestation, forest overgrowth and big trees growing through where old hedges lie, are the biggest threat to the Cornelian Cherry asset in the Pielach Valley. A further threat of the Cornelian Cherry population is the planting of cultivated varieties or self -seeding wild Cornelian Cherry plants from other regions. In the Pielach Valley 8,000 Cornelian Cherry plants have been counted which are potentially usable for harvesting. A further 2,000 plants are being interspersed by forest and undergrowth and are therefore not important for harvesting their fruit. On an average a farmer can harvest fruit from around150 plants. Most of the working farms are using the Cornelian Cherry for their own use, e.g. processing small amounts for Cornelian Cherry products. Only 5% of these farms process over 1,000 kg of fruit per year (as of January 2011 these are: Anton Gonaus, Peter Humpelstetter, Manuela Grasmann, Melanie & Josef Fuxsteiner, Barbara & Gerhard Gatterer). Traditonal products made out of the Cornelian Cherry are schnapps and jam. The Pielach valley Cornelian Cherry area is well known for its culinary delights and the local village/ town Council areas are:Ober-Grafendorf, Weinburg, Hofstetten-Grünau, Rabenstein an der Pielach, Kirchberg an der Pielach, Loich, Schwarzenbach an der Pielach, Frankenfels.

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