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Friday, July 8, 2011

ALCORNOQUE

CORK IS HARVESTED BARK FROM THE CORK OAK TREE
Photo by: americasfloorsource.com

L. Querus suber, Eng. cork oak tree. Beware of champagne drinkers who blow their corks! Chances of being killed by them, descending from ceilings, are better than being killed by poisonous spiders. The Castellan word is derived from querus, with the Arabic article al. From ancient times, medicinally, cork was boiled in water for 15-20 minutes and imbibed or plied for diarrhea, enteritis and hemorrhoids. Cork, myrtle leaves and Cyprus nuts are ground and mixed with ointment to apply to externally for hemorrhoids, burns, cuts and abrasions. At 20 years old, the tree begins to grow sweet and bitter acorns. For uses as food see bellota. Further, the cork tree was an important source for firewood and charcoal. The tree can live for 500 years but 150 is average. It is an evergreen type of oak tree typical of the Mediterranean growing in dry areas. It is abundant on the Atlantic coast of the Iberian Peninsula, in NE Catalonia and in the Andalusian mountains around Cadiz, especially in those near the sea from Sierra Bermeja to Alpujarra in Granada. The average height is 20-25 meters. The cork or outer bark is not stripped until they are 20-25 years old or older. Then the cork is uneven and rough, unlike subsequent productions. After that they are stripped every 6-12 years. This is not vital to the tree’s functions or for survival. When stripped, the inner bark reproduces outer bark, a process that takes between 3-10 years. Stripping, today, continues to be accomplished by hand. First slits are cut in the outer bark and then it is pried loose without harming the inner bark. The surface is scraped by hand before boiling to remove the tannin content and to increase flexibility. See cerdo ibérico and encina. [ES: Junta. Apr 26, 02; ES: Groomed. 1998; ES: Joffre. 1999; and Pencho. 195:128-129]

2 comments:

  1. I think I have seen somewhere a container made of cork to keep temperature inside? As a rule, cork is a very good isolating material, and it was and still is used for walling and flooring, even if the use of laminated floors and parquets and synthetic material is displacing it. I remember the chapel in my Mom's school all decorated with cork. Authentic cork is also being replaced by plastic in the bottles, but the advantages (not getting rotten) do not balance, in my opinion, the drawbacks... It's no esthetic, it is harder for screwdrivers to pull out, and what do we do of that smelling of the cork to ensure the wine is ok?

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  2. Apparently the use of cork in medieval times to preserve food from spoiling and for bottles was abandoned although used in Ancient Greece and Rome. Cloth, leather, pitch and other products were used instead for bottles. Hats were made with brims and corks hung from them to ward off insects. The Romans found it excellent for durable and cushioned sandals. It was used in shipbuilding to create waterproof hauls covered with pitch and to keep fishnets afloat, making them easier to manage. Cork logs were used to insulate buildings, especially monasteries, to keep heat in during the winter and out in the summer. It was used in wind instruments in particular, fastening segments to make them airtight.

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