The cork oak tree is a beautiful statuesque tree that is Portugal’s national tree. Before living in Portugal we had no idea how cork was produced, or that it was Portugal’s main industry. Fossilised remains of these ancient trees have been found dating back over ten million years! The oldest cork oak in the world, the Whistler Tree can be found in Portugal’s Alentejo region and was planted in 1783. A single harvest from this ginormous tree produced 1200 kg of cork, more than most cork oaks yield in a lifetime.
The bark of the cork oak is harvested from May to August and stripped off by experienced professionals with an axe. The first harvest takes place when the tree is 25 years old and large enough in diameter, then every nine years subsequently. The cork planks are stored outside for at least 6 months until stable, then boiled, processed, punched and created into cork products.
In the Castelo Branco central region of Portugal there are many native cork oaks. We now find ourselves very lucky to be living underneath the protective branches of a magnificent cork oak tree and in the middle of a cork oak forest.
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