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Maremma Box: Monastero di Siloe

We are in the middle of the Maremma countryside, in the Ombrone valley. We follow a dirt road past a small cluster of houses until we are in front of the Monastery of Siloe. It is a modern structure, characterized by glass panels that give it a welcoming tone.

Waiting for us we find Friar Flavio, one of the monks of the Benedictine community, who thoroughly answers all our curiosities about the making of this monastery totally immersed in nature. If the lighting is provided by photovoltaic panels, the water is heated by burning the olive kernel, present in great numbers thanks to the many olive groves all around.

One of the main aims of the foundation that financed the project was to create a farm, which was born with the idea of respecting the environment and recovering some crops that had been abandoned or lost altogether due to the constant migrations from the countryside to the city that started in the 1960s.

The flagship of the various crops is the chili pepper. Corresponding to the best view of the valley is the peperonaia, divided into numerous varieties of chili peppers, sprouting among plants that in some cases exceed two meters in height. The color show is impressive: ranging from classic red to light green, from yellow to bottle green.

“The Colors of Siloe” is a product that combines varieties of chilies. Why Siloe? In the Old Testament, there is mention of the Pool of Siloe, which, thanks to a canal dug into the rock by King Hezekiah, ensured the supply of water to Jerusalem even during sieges. This water was thus believed to be the sign of divine protection over the city. As chance would have it, the monastic community moved to the Maremma precisely because of a donation of a farm called “Le Pescine” due to the presence of a spring of water on site. Through the irrigation system, the water is the main nutrient for the chili pepper plants, which once harvested by hand is dried in the laboratory before grinding and chopping.

Friar Flavio confides to us that “it is an excellent product for seasoning dishes and you can even use it in good quantities, since in this combination of ours one type of hotter chili is offset by another less intense type.” So…all that remains is to taste!