A miracle in a jar: Faleschini

07 December 2020

The Faleschini business started in 1990, born of the enthusiasm and endless curiosity of Luigi Faleschini.

Trained as a land surveyor, he left Milan to return to his roots. Faleschini is based 700 meters above sea level, in the Alpine valley of Valcanale, a land of three borders (between Austria, Slovenia and Italy) the district of Malborghetto-Valbruna, Friuli.

Since 1990, when the business was established, Faleschini has been cultivating this fertile terrain from late spring to autumn, producing fruit and vegetables according to organically-certified methods. Edible wild herbs grow in the meadows and glades of the Valcanale, perfect for using in the kitchen. These wild herbs are gathered by hand and processed to make vegetable creams, pickles and vegetables in oil. Among these mountain herbs we find ramsons (Allium orsinum), alpine leek (Allium victorialis), dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), bladder campion (Silene vulgaris) and alpine sow-thistle (Cicerbita alpina), better known around these parts as Radic di Mont (Slow Food Presidium).

Getting your hands dirty

Luigi explains: “When you come from a big city to small villages, it’s difficult to win the trust of the locals. I had a real desire to get things done, to get my hands dirty. I missed the mountains, close contact with nature and I wanted to return to the roots, to the traditions of my land, by doing something innovative.” And so the adventure began, and, a year later, he found a landowner willing to lease him some terrain to build his dream on.

“When I started I had nothing. No tools, no help, but I wasn’t discouraged. I felt like I was doing something pioneering in this area by producing local fruit and vegetables organically.” Perseverance soon rewarded him. He started to sell his products at local markets, where people recognized the difference between his vegetables and those they were used to. In a short space of time he received his first grants from the European Union and was able to buy some second-hand tools: slowly—but not that slowly!—the business was taking shape.

From small markets to workshops

Processing dandelions

From small local markets, Luigi widened his customer base, getting his products onto the shelves of organic shops in big cities… but his dream is still limited: “Focusing on organic production with respect for the soil and raw ingredients means following seasonality. My products were ready to be sold in autumn and by springtime I felt the need to reinvent myself.”

Luigi began experimenting, dedicating himself to research, and decided to transform an old abandoned office near his grandparents’ house into a workshop. In this workshop, where much of his processing work now takes place. His passion for nature and agriculture is accompanied by a love for the kitchen, and so he began researching recipes, discovering new ingredients and methods to make preserves.

Organic as a calling card

Jars of Radic di Mont

These jars, a result of endless curiosity and effort, a guarantee for his customers. A guarantee of quality, professionalism and commitment to organic practices: “I never stop. I always want to improve. The beauty of artisanal products, what makes artisans unique, is that each product is different from every other. The industrial system standardized everything. Here, the differences are marked by the nature of raw ingredients, which is different in each harvest, and each new wave of products is an opportunity to find a detail that can be improved. Our customers expect high standards and that’s something to be proud of for me. I dedicate all my energies to making sure I don’t let those expectations down.”

Luigi describes himself as a curious man, and thinks that curiosity is one of the most important elements in life. Curiosity allows us to feel alive, to not feel like we’ve reached the finish line, to look around us, to improve and to keep going forward with enthusiasm. This curiosity led him, in 2005, to gather wild herbs and think about how to promote them in conserves, creams and pickles.

Radic di Mont

That’s how the Slow Food Presidium for Radic di Mont was started. “Often, people who buy a simple jar doesn’t know exactly what’s behind it. In the spring I got to the mountains to look for these herbs, on the steep and slippy terrain, where it often happens that you return home without finding anything, or only finding herbs that haven’t grown enough to be used. Timing with nature is everything. You need a good knowledge of the local area, to take care to preserve the environment without disfiguring the terrain as you move from one place to the next. You need a good botanical knowledge to know how to tell edible herbs from other similar-looking ones. After gathering a kilo and hours of work our little miracle is stored in jars of no more than 100 grams.”

Behind a small jar there’s a massive effort to promote the local products of the land. This is the story of Faleschini: a constant innovation to keep traditions alive.

by Carolina Meli, c.meli@slowfood.it

Luigi Faleschini has a Virtual Showcase at Terra Madre Salone del Gusto: learn more about this producer and more than 400 others. Faleschini is supported by Friuli Venezia Giulia – Promoturismo FVG. You can find a selection of products to buy (delivery within the Schengen Area only), at our online marketplace.