From subsistence agriculture to identity heritage
In the Cuneo area, alpine culture finds maximum expression in many agricultural and gastronomic productions, often merging with the Occitan matrix that transversally unites all the "Lands of Monviso" with the preservation of the language, popular customs, and recipes. This is also the case in the Varaita Valley, where an originally poor and laborious agriculture has developed over time, through resilience and thanks to attachment to the territory, a thriving agrifood and gastronomic heritage, guardian of its identity and pillar of the local economy.
Today, the peculiar productions of the valley, in many cases, are structured on a business dimension but always in the groove of tradition and with a strong artisanal imprint.
Gastronomic specialties of the area
Among the specialties the Toumin dal Mel stands out. Originating in the middle valley (Frassino and Melle), it is a 200 g tomino cheese made from whole cow's milk and probably invented towards the end of the 9th century by two peasant women. With a soft texture, it can be eaten fresh or aged and is one of the basic ingredients of the valley's queen recipe, ravioles: once the festive dish, not to be confused with ravioli or agnolotti (meat or lean). Ravioles are more like gnocchi, as they are made with local potatoes, flour, eggs and Toumin dal Mel. On the other hand, the name comes from the act of rolling the dough (raviolé) on the work surface, which allows them to be given their classic tapered shape.
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Productions and harvests
Not to be forgotten are medicinal herbs, destined for the production of infusions and herbal teas, honey from artisan farms, mushrooms that grow wild in the chestnut, oak and beech forests of the lower and middle valley, and chestnuts, particularly the variety known as Bracalla, formerly the staple of the diet of the poorer mountain and peasant areas. It is no coincidence, in fact, that the chestnut tree was called the "bread tree": its cultivation has been attested in the valley since the 12th century, and Venasca has become, over the centuries, such an important center for the precious fruit that even today in October every day there is a market dedicated exclusively to the trade of this product.