BuyFood Toscana: showcasing Tuscan specialty foods

BuyFood Toscana: showcasing Tuscan specialty foods

The official event showcases quality Tuscan products for the fifth year running.

Tue 05 Dec 2023 11:01 AM

Tuscan cooking comes into its own as the chill sets into the air. Many warming dishes are typical to the region, allowing autumnal products to shine. Seasonality, quality and authenticity are cornerstone values of Tuscan fare, but the abundance of gastronomical offerings sometimes means that it can be difficult to know where to find the real deal and how to make an informed choice. These are the same questions asked and answered by the BuyFood Toscana 2023 event, which has shed light on quality Tuscan products for the fifth year running, the rubric used to examine them, and the environmental and production factors that make them so unique. Bringing producers and buyers together, BuyFood Toscana aims to increase understanding of the territory and its produce at a national and international level.

BuyFood 2023 masterclass. Ph. Ilaria Costanzo

Taking on a crucial role in creating trust in products and producers, the stamps of DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta) and IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) show that a product has been verified as coming from a specific region, bearing traits that derive from the environment and the manufacturing process, with at least one phase conducted locally. Between food and wine, Tuscany alone has an offering of 90 DOP and IGP certified products, with an economic power of 1.361 million euro, which represents 30 per cent of the region’s entire agricultural value, a whole 9 per cent above the national average.

As such, the powerhouse of Tuscan agriculture warrants protection since it is maintained by many small family-run companies that take pride in what they do. Part of the BuyFood Toscana agenda is promoting economic sustainability, helping customers to trust the excellence they invest in as well as supporting the rural economy in a market awash with grand-scale manufacturing and fakes of the true products. Environmental sustainability goes hand-in-hand with economic sustainability as the companies represented rely on the specificities of the local land. In fact, organic farms make up 14% of all Tuscan agriculture, the largest proportion of any region in Italy.

Terms such as identity, history and tradition are not thrown around haphazardly; their use here is deserved. When regional cuisine has been developed over centuries, you can be sure these habits are tried and tested, as are the methods of production that are often remarkably unchanged today. Choosing the oils, cheeses and meats that are native to the region is a unique way of understanding its agricultural heritage and experiencing the food that has fueled cities like Florence throughout its evolution.

BuyFood Toscana: visiting the producers

Buyfood 2023 Press Tour Ph. Beatrice Cambioni
Buyfood 2023 Press Tour Ph. Beatrice Cambioni
BuyFood 2023 press tour to Monte Amiata. Ph. Beatrice Cambioni

Within the series of events that were offered this year, visits were conducted to specific producers to discover their products and manufacturing processes, bringing the “farm to fork” concept to life. Among these was Caseificio Il Fiorino, multi-award-winning producer of Pecorino Toscano. The cheesemaker is situated in the Monte Amiata area and only uses milk from sheep pastures in the Maremma, within a 40-kilometre radius of where they are fermented and matured. It may not be precisely “km0”, but this is as close as it gets. The team of cheese makers observe the process throughout every stage, adding the rennet, pressing the curds by hand and moving the rounds between the different ageing chambers to give each variety a unique taste. The result is a delicate and distinctive cheese that is native to this region and grounded in centuries of product development. The many types vary in methods and durations of ageing, from 20 days for the young cheeses to four months minimum for the mature cheeses, and additional flavourings, such as truffle and saffron. It would suffice to say that the cheeses speak for themselves, but just in case that wasn’t enough, the awards and certificates that adorn the walls of their headquarters in Roccalbegna prove their unquestionable quality.

In line with the season, special attention was given to the chestnuts produced in the Castel del Piano area. One of the largest chestnut-growing companies in the area is run by Mirco Fazzi, who is at the heart of the enterprise collecting the edible nuts and overseeing the roasting, which takes place in a stone-brick building in the orchard. Forty days later, the chestnuts are taken to the nearby town of Seggiano, where they are ground into flour by a stone mill turned by the torrents of the river. It is a far cry from the industrial factories where our food is processed beyond recognition. This is food at its most natural.

Buyfood 2023 Press Tour Ph. Beatrice Cambioni
Buyfood 2023 Press Tour Ph. Beatrice Cambioni

Seggiano is also known as “the olive oil town”, owing to the abundance of olives grown and pressed there, producing oil that is DOP and IGP certified. The unique micro-climate in Seggiano, where the trees have evolved to withstand snow, may produce olives that are smaller, yet they yield more than other varieties. Five years ago, ten producers from Seggiano joined together to form a cooperative to safeguard the quality and local history. Visitors can take a guided tour of the town, which acts as an open-air museum, featuring the old city hall, the 18th-century oil presses and the modern-day mill. The passion the producers have is evident in their work and the harvest season, from November to February, sees team members spending ten hours per day collecting the olives, sometimes without machinery.

To take part in the BuyFood project, look out for the speciality foods bearing the DOP and IGP quality marks (PDO and PGI in English). The other option is to look for the Vetrina Toscana sticker on the windows of restaurants, shops and wine bars throughout Tuscany. This campaign helps visitors and locals alike to seek out authentic products without venturing to the farms and factories themselves.

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