Europe’s apple garden with melt water from the Alps
When the first farmers discovered fruit growing in Val Venosta some 100 years ago, nobody thought that this small valley with a length of 70 km would become Europe’s highest and most passionate apple production area one day. Val Venosta was known as Tyrol’s granary and apples were of no importance.
Today, however, 1,700 farmer families of this lush green valley live on Golden Delicious and the like. They owe it to their grandparents and continue their tradition with much love for the detail. Nature also shows attention to detail here in the form of a special microclimate at the heart of the Alps: It strategically protects the fertile valley floor with is mountains of 3,000 meters and more and prevents most clouds from entering the valley due to the Ötztal Alps in the north and the Ortler Alps in the south. So the few precipitation usually comes from the west or east.
And as if nature wanted to tease the remaining clouds without interruption, it welcomes the rain clouds coming from the west or east with another effective remedy: Val Venosta’s wind which blows most of the clouds away and thus provides for a unique agricultural habitat. Few clouds means, above all, little precipitation, low humidity and many hours of sunshine. In other words: glorious blue sky and blazing sun in every season during the day and crystal clear hours with millions of stars in the dark blue moonlight at night.
„Actually a steppe climate…extremely dry and, at first glance, not really perfect for a flowering apple production area, which we have proudly become. When there’s less than 500 mm of precipitation a year and the sun is nowhere restrained by mountain peaks due to the east-west orientation of the valley, the result is very dry prairie and not lush green apple orchards that you can find everywhere in Val Venosta between Malles and Parcines,“ says an experienced apple producer and irrigation expert from Laces.
Normally. But people from Val Venosta are different and nature knows that, too. It likes leaving room to the ingenuity and pragmatism of people from Val Venosta. As if it wanted the passionate farmers to find out by themselves what to do in order to be successful and handle the steppe climate. And it seems they have found out. Apples have become more and more important since the 1950s and today are the main product of this small alpine valley. As said before, for 1,700 diligent farmer families.
„Because our grandfathers soon realized that there is a perfect remedy against the blazing sun and the clouds blown away by the wind: the melt water of the surrounding glaciers.“ From spring to late summer, steep mountain streams with fresh melt water from the glaciers in Val Venosta’s side valleys flow into the Adige river. Furthermore, our diligent ancestors built a 600km-long system of irrigation channels called „Waale“ in German. „What does it mean to be an apple producer in Val Venosta? It means working with what nature provides. We do not have enough precipitation but much snow in the mountains. So we just have to wait until it melts and then use the water when necessary.“ Nature indeed didn’t want to make it too easy to our ancestors. Today’s apple producers continue their ancestors' tradition in the form of artificial irrigation with water from the ground water and daily transform dry Val Venosta into a fertile, lush green valley reflected in the melt water of the Adige river and Lake Resia and seeking inspiration in the deep blue sky above the Stelvio National Park. So the hot temperatures during the day and the fresh breeze at night turn Val Venosta into Europe’s predestined apple garden in the middle of the alpine mountain world of Ortler, Gran Zebrù, Mount Cevedale and other three-thousanders.
Nature and people work together with much attention to detail to produce apples that grow very slowly and thus become very crunchy and sweet. Crunchier and sweeter than anywhere else. A joint venture that makes both of them happy and shapes the future. In South Tyrol’s probably most beautiful valley.