WELCOME TO Val's Alentejo -I write about my region of Alentejo. My art ,painting, my cottages, Family life, my animals -Travels And my love for Roses- and rural country life.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Every 9 years

 The Ancient Greeks and Romans discovered how to use cork.  I am no expert on this matter. Today I decided to write about what can be produced from cork and some information on how its stripped from the trees.


Before you can take the bark of the cork trees it takes 25 years for the tree to grow.  The first cutting is called virgin cork, and is harder . The second stripping takes place between 9 to 12 years later, here in with our Iberian cork.   In Portugal its known as the "Sobreiro" -Quercus faglhea.
The tree grows on the Iberian Peninsula, mediterranean areas, Balearric Islands and up in the Atlas mountains of North Africa.
Normally stipped in May to June. 

The bark has already been stripped off this tree and it now waits for its next stripping.

                                                                A virgin tree..testing the bark
                                                  Professional cork strippers.  The price fo the cork is stipulated on the open market. These men live only from stripping and are very proud of their work. Its a very lucrative business. To grow the trees and for the strippers..
                This weekend started the stripping of the cork trees at my son's Herdade "Alfange" Its a busy time and occassion .  One has to be close at hand , as the men like the owners to be there.  The photo above shows Alfanges cork trees of which there are many.
                              Second generation cork stripper !   Whew!! I am learning
                             Look what I have done in an afternoon.  Gosh I am so tired.

Besides shoes and clothing.  Cork is used for firewood, beams, posts, flooring and other uses.
Acorns from the cork oak are the staple diet for our black free range pigs.  Alfange had at one time 150. . now there are a couple roaming around.  Not to mention the wild boar who like them too.

Cork is unique. Up until this present day, no other tree has the same characteristics and can be used in this way.

Sunday we celebrated with a big family lunch ..another 9 years to wait for the next  stripping.

Wishing you a happy tuesday.  Enjoy the trees around you.  They are precious.. A cork tree is never cut down.


  1. That is so interesting Val - I had no idea that cork could be used to make so many different items. I don't think that I have ever seen a cork handbag, and from your picture they look very nice.
    I know that when screw caps first came in on wine bottles the cork suppliers were very upset. Have they diversified at all, or is there still sufficient business for the wine cork business?

  2. Hello Val:
    In our gardening days, a favourite phrase of ours was that trees are the purest form of gardening and so we believe they are.

    The cork trees look magnificent and we can well imagine how fascinating it would be to see a skilled cork stripper at work. And, you are so right, one can never start too young on learning a new skill!! Still, in 9 years time, he will surely have perfected the Art!

  3. Dear Val, this is such a fascinating post. I knew cork came from trees in Portugal/Spain but have never seen pictures of the action, and had no idea it takes 9 years to harvest. Cork is lovely, especially on wedge shoes! Happy Tuesday! xxx Patricia

  4. Val, this was so interesting as I never really thought about cork and it's origin! It certainly looks like the family had fun which is THE BEST!...:)JP

  5. I never knew that cork was literally stripped from trees and that it can only happen every nine years! The photo showing the outdoor eating area is stunning! My hasn't that little boy been working hard!!!

  6. Dear Val, Thank you for sharing this wonderful and very informative post with us. Most trees will die if you remove or scar the outer bark. I read somewhere that Portugal supplies 80% of all the cork used in the world. How wonderful that it is also a renewable resource and a viable industry in your beloved country. ox, Gina

  7. How fascinating, it truly is a remarkable tree, and obviously worth waiting for, I have a pair of cork shoes on at the moment!!
    Thea x

  8. They produce a lot of cork in the Italian island of Sardegna (Sardinia.)

    I agree, cork is very useful... think of the corks on all those lovely bottles of Champagne and good Prosecco! You can usually tell a good bottle of wine from the cork: if it's made from real, natural materials, you should expect the wine to be good, If, on the contrary, a bottle has an imitation, plastic cork top, made in China, then, like the cork, the wine will be of poor quality.

    I like your photos, Val. The image of the cork stripper is something I had never seen before (here, where I live, a "stripper" is usually an individual who takes their clothes off for money!)
    I love the little "apprentice"... SO CUTE!

    Thank you, one more time, for showing us a little "tranche de vie" all the way from beautiful Portugal!



  9. Dear Val
    Very beautiful post today. I honestly have a pair of sandals, but I don't know how cork is produced. Thanks for sharing this knowledge with me. The little boy worked hard, it is worth a big ice.

  10. Thank you Olympia,
    I think its very interesting how the cork is harvested. For me its second nature..but so many people dont know how or where cork comes from.
    Yes..little Max was enjoying himself with his dad.

  11. Love your comment Anna, Ha ha ha ..
    I mean wow, what would I do if i saw that..!!!!
    Yes, cork trees are within the medeterrenean area..Thats correct Anna, we can tell by the cork ,the year, and the smell if the wine is good.
    Here a good bottle of wine , has to be de corked in front of the customer at the restaurant..
    The very cheap wines here they use the chinese plastic tops. I also saw on wikipedia..that china now produces cork..! what next.
    Thanks dearest Anna for your lovely comments. i always enjoy reading them.
    Max is my youngest grandson.. such a cute fellow.
    xxx hugs Uma Boa noite para ti. valeria..

  12. Thank you dearest Gina,
    Yes you are correct .Portugal produces most of the worlds cork..last count. The spanish buy lots from us then sell it at higher prices.. but not so now, with all the problems..
    That is why the Cork Oak is so unique..it doesnt die.. however, the bark is only taken off above the root and half way up the tree trunk.. I am sure you saw it while visiting Portugal..
    thank you Gina.
    hugs val x x x
    Happy tuesday

  13. Thank you Thea,
    Yes, If one has cork trees they must be cherished. they are never cut down. My son has many. I only have olive trees.!
    wishing you a lovely tuesday eve.
    val x

  14. Thank you for your comments June,
    Yes, that little fellow is my youngest grandson Max he is now 2 and half.. he loves to be outside with his dad.
    I am glad that you know now how the cork is harvested. Its very interesting.

  15. I was baking with Didi..Max's sister. Max is the little fellow in the photo he is my youngest grandson..
    Its men's work.. Max joined in. We all joined up for a late family lunch. Afternoon tea with Didi's cup cakes.
    good fun all around.
    The cork strippers work very hard.
    Thank you JP..

  16. Thank you Rosemary, I am pleased you liked my post.
    Cork is a big industry here . Portuguese Cork, is bought by France for their best reserve French champagne and many wineries buy too. It would take me hours to write about all i know.. Mr. M's family owned many big cork farms. .
    One of the bags in the photos.. curtesy of wikepedia..exept for my darling Max. Is sold in a top designer shop in N Y.. next time I am out i will take photos of close ups for you.. they even make dresses now and umbrellas. very very expensive.
    The white plastic stoppers, are only used for the very cheaply produced wines. cooking and that.
    A Portuguese person would be very offended if the bottle was not de corked in front of him, especially if its a reserve. Business all over Europe is bad..but the corks are still in demand. Wine just doesnt taste the same without a good corked bottle. We used to cork our own..
    wishing you the rest of a good tuesday.

  17. So So true Jane and Lance.
    Our dearest little Max was helping daddy. He is a sweet sweet grandson.
    Yes, by the time the next stripping comes..he will be 11 or 12..the same age as his brother Tom is now.
    The Iberian Cork Oak is a magnificent tree.. in fact all oak trees are. I love them.
    I always feel sorry for them when they are used for cork.
    Thank you so much for your kind comments.

  18. Dear Val,
    I feel a bit embaraced 'cause I've never seem to have wondered how cork is made... and I certainly didn't know it's story goes as far back as the ancient Greks and Romans. It's fascinating!

    I love trees : )

  19. Thank you for such an interesting post. I had never given much thought how cork was taken off the trees! I think it is such a shame that is such a large number of plastic corks in wine bottles these days.
    Sarah x

  20. Very interesting! I know that they do not grow everywhere. I think they also tried to grow them in Australia but it did not work. Now with the growing wine production a big problem - as you say nothing is like cork. We always bring the used wine stoppers back to the shop - they are recycled and used in the construction business. Your grandson looks so sweet! Lucky grandma! Christa

  21. How interesting! I've never seen a cork tree and I must admit that I thought they grew in Malaysia and that sort of area, I had no idea that they grow in Spain and Portugal.I love those cork soled wedge heels in your photos. I don't own any but I've a feeling that might be going to change soon!

  22. I am so glad you posted about cork. I looked up Alentejo a while back to read about where you live and got side tracked by info about the cork trees. So much I didn't realize and so interesting. I love that they can't find a better way to do it than the same way they always have and that it doesn't hurt the trees to get the cork. What amazing trees!

  23. Don't worry Demie, When i first came to Portugal..i couldnt believe that cork came from trees.. they are beautiful cork oaks.. I am not sure that you produce the cork in Greece. I have been to greece but cannot remember seeing any cork items. ..Yes, it was the Greek and Romans that started it all.
    thank you for your comments Demie.. appreciated

  24. Yes, we do see some plastic cork stoppers around.. but a really good bottle of wine, you will always find has a cork. Its actually also by the smell on the cork, that you can smell how the wine is.
    glad you liked the post Sarah. thankk you.

  25. Thank you Lisa.. yes , its amazing the art of stripping the bark comes from the ancients. It doesnt hurt the tree.. after stripping, they put a protective coat on..and also mark the tree with a number.. depends on the estate its been stripped from. glad you looked up where i live..its beautiful here. thanks for your kind comments ..val

  26. Thanks Christa,
    max is growing.
    What a great idea to recycle the tops. I dont like them.
    Didnt know Australia tried to grow the cork oak.. china is doing it.. lots of info on the web.
    thanks for your comments..glad that you enjoyed it.
    Here our wines sell well. They have won some international awards.. maybe you should try an Alentejo wine one day.. happy days Christa.

  27. Rowan.
    Yes, you must go and buy a pair of the cork wedges..they are so comfortable on the foot. Soft when you walk.
    We are one of the main producers of cork here .. Its a very interesting subject to look up.
    glad you liked it and found out its not Malaysia.
    ): val

  28. Dear Valerie, thank you for your comment! I hope you had a good and happy day! It's nice to look at decorations and interior designs but I am glad I do not need to do it all over again. Too hard work and the style one has is something that has grown over the years whereas many decos on the photographs are just for the moment. I hope you are having a relaxing evening! Big hugs, Christa

  29. Fascinating! I have seen the wild pigs foraging under the cork trees from the highway in Extremedura. So nice to know more.

  30. Hello Valerie

    I love this post and so informative. A cork purse is quite unique!How interesting that it takes 9 years to mature again before harvesting.Many stories must be created around harvesting time and it must mark time.
    The cork tree is quite valuable. I have not seen one grow.

    Wishing you a delightful weekend

  31. Thank you Helen,
    Most people know about cork, but some dont .. i thought it interesting to post , as manel has been harvesting. His last crop 9 years ago our Didi was 2.
    The Cork Oak is valuable and also evergreen and beautiful.

  32. Thanks Christa,
    Always nice to look at new ideas. Gives a little inspiration to our day.

  33. thanks Jacqueline,
    I think that you know a lot about Portugal and that is so nice, its a wonderful country.
    yes, the black pigs are on many farms.


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