Blue Mines Cycle Trekking

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Cork oak forests. A resource for Sardinian craft

Riding on our bikes to our cultural destinations, we will usually be riding under cork oak forests. The area around Piscinas is surrounded by forests and Mediterranean scrub. Among the different species of flora that compose this natural environment there is the suérgiu tree (cork oak). This is very important for the Sardinian craft, economy and culture.

Walking and riding in cork oak forests

Sughereta is the Italian word for cork oak forests. They are typical of Mediterranean countries, like Portugal, Spain, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Sardinia and Italy. Cork oaks forests cover the natural area of Ingurtosu and Montevecchio, and the mountains around Piscina Irgas waterfall. That is where our itineraries will bring you, very special locations where nature and culture are the main characters. In fact at the same time cork oaks have an important role in Sardinian culture, as source of raw material used in traditional crafts.

Cork oak forests
A cork oak stripped – picture from Guide Me Right

The production of cork

Sardinia provides 18’000’000 kilograms of cork per year, that represent 2/3 of the Italian production. Cultivation of cork is a long process. The cork oak must be at least 10 years old to guarantee an appropriate production and good quality. The first strip provides a bad quality cork, but after that the oak begin producing the best cork, available in 9 years. After the same arc of time another strip can be made, and so on, every 9-10 years, until the oak dead. Cork oak can live for 100 years.  Cork producers must also take care of weed and bushes under the cork oaks, to prevent the fire danger, even if cork is quite effective in protecting the oak from the fire.

Traditional crafts and products

Cork is used in several fields, such as construction (wall insulation, pavements), shoe-making, wine-making etc. It is particularly important in wine-making: best wines are still preserved with corks. But also, in Sardinia cork had been fundamental in the production of domestic tools. In humble houses it was the raw material, with wood and instead of iron, for cutlery and dishes. One of this folklorist tools is the mobìtza or tzipa, a cork tray used to place the meat on. As well as old milk buckets, roughly made with the cheaper and easily available cork. Or the scannu, a little stool made with natural materials: cork for the sit, ferule as support and spurs as nails. And nowadays, because of the spread of modern materials and tools, cork is still useful thanks to Sardinian hobbyists that create typical artworks and souvenirs.

The mobìtza, typical Sardinian tray – picture from L’artigianato del sughero

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