Do not be fooled by the name, because this variety of cabbage grows anywhere apart from in the hills. It is actually grown between 1100 and 1330 meters above sea level, within the municipality of Forni Avoltri, where there is a small district, which is in fact called Collina.
In the mountainous area of the Carnic Alps, the climate is cold and humid, with a high level of cloudiness and abundant rainfall. The cultivation of this vegetable, which takes place on terraced land facing south, has always been of considerable importance for the community: together with barley and rye, it was in fact one of the few species which could grow in the area.
Collina cabbage is brachycephalic, meaning it has a head that is not spherical but a little bit squashed and flattened. The diameter is about 20 to 30 centimetres and it weighs around 1.5-2 kilograms. The leaves are thin with evident reddish veins, it is white inside and light green outside. In autumn the outer leaves tend to dry out, leaving the cabbage clean.
When eaten fresh, cabbages has a slightly spicy taste and a crunchy texture, but there is also an ancient tradition that involves transforming cabbages into so-called craut grap.
Here the recipe: the leaves are cured in salt or vinegar, then the external leaves and the core are removed, and the remaining part is cut into thin strips which are placed in a vat (brent) with alternating layers of cabbage and salt. This is covered with the external leaves which were initially removed. It is covered with weights and a lid to keep the contents under pressure, and left to rest, so that fermentation can start. After 40 to 45 days, the sauerkraut is ready.
The Collina cabbage has almost disappeared, mainly due to the depopulation of the mountain areas. If we are still able to taste this vegetable today, we owe it to the work of Ciro Toch’s family who safeguarded the seeds and renewed them every two years.
His efforts were collected by a group of young people: who in 2018, returned to the Collina area and created the CoopMont cooperative, with the main objective of continuing the cultivation of this variety of cabbage, a product which is symbolic to the area. One year after the cooperative was established, the first edition of the “Festa dei cavoli nostri” was launched, which takes place during the first days of October and opens the harvesting phase.
The Presidium was created to promote the product and the territory where it is produced, a marginal area that preserves immense gastronomic and naturalistic aspects. The Presidium’s production procedure guidelines exclude the use of chemical weeding and states that there must be a rotation of at least five years (with a winter cereal or with vegetables such as broad beans, spring potatoes, onions, garlic and endives).
District of Collina, Municipality of Forni Avoltri, Province of Udine
Friuli Venezia Giulia Region