Polenta is one of Italy’s national foods alongside other favorites you will easily recognize, such as pasta and pizza. Versatile, tasty and very filling, polenta is a regular feature on menus around Italy, sometimes in combination with Parmesan cheese, another Italian specialty. Polenta and parmesan go well together and you can find many recipes for Parmesan Polenta to suit your taste. Parmigiano-Reggiano is the “official” name of this distinctive Italian cheese made from skimmed cow’s milk. It’s a strong-tasting, hard cheese that has become popular in a range of dishes, especially when grated over pasta. But there’s one unique ingredient in Italian cooking that helps make all these delicious foods more accessible, more cost-effective to produce and simply, more sustainable. Yes, the taste of Italy is better with drip!
Polenta, primarily made from cornmeal, benefits from the fact that corn is one of the main crops of Italy, the third largest corn producing country in Europe with more than 9 million tonnes of production in 2014. (Eurostat). Corn is also used in feed for dairy cows, the source of milk for all that delicious parmesan cheese.
Giuliano Menghini is a family dairy farmer in Mantova in the Lombardy region of Italy. He cultivates his forage crops (corn and alfalfa) in small plots of 5 – 20 hectares up to a total of around 120 hectares, to feed his dairy cows. Typically, Giuliano has irrigated his farmland with a rain-gun – but this method is labor-intensive and more importantly, does not guarantee consistent high quality. For the best parmesan production, Giuliano’s cows must feed on high quality cornmeal, free of toxins that can be formed if the corn crop is under stress or suffers from excessive humidity on the cobs as often happens when using a rain-gun. By converting to Netafim’s drip irrigation system, Giuliano’s first year of drip saw a 20-25% increase in yield and toxin-free corn quality. Not only are the cows happier, the costs are lower, energy consumption related to irrigation is reduced and the parmesan is better.
This is just one of the stories recounted this week by Netafim’s Head of Strategic Crops, Lior Peleg, at EIMA 2016, the International Agricultural and Gardening Exposition taking place in, yes, you guessed it, Italy! See more from Netafim at EIMA 2016 on our website and our Facebook page. We hope you enjoy the taste of Italy as much as we do!