We’ll not talk about the city of Cork in South-Ireland – though it might be an interesting place because of the river Lee (Chinese influence?)(Now don’t think of Christopher Lee, he was born in London, the son of Lieutenant Colonel Geoffrey Trollope Lee (1879–1941) of the 60th King’s Royal Rifle Corps, and his wife, Countess Estelle Marie (née Carandini di Sarzano; 1889–1981)), because of its patron-saint Fionnbharra, because its traditional name “city of rebels” – but about the material cork, one of the most wonderful materials on earth!
Cork is not only waterproof, but water repellent, elastic, isolating and resisting to fire. It swims easily on the water, was used for buoys and still is for fishermen’s float gauges. One can even mix it with concrete or asphalt to get nice, elastic and silent roads…..But the main product of cork is wine stoppers (in German even called “Korken”). Unhappily they are lately being replaced with plastic or aluminum, but cork is a really sustainable material, from the growing to the recycling (it releases much less CO2 than other materials).
Just look at the landscapes, where cork is mainly harvested, in Portugal, South Spain or North-West-Africa: In the Dehesas, true mixtures in between woods and pastoral sites, grows quercus suber, the cork-oak, then we have other oaks (quercus ilex, holly oak), Dehesa is the favourite place for the famous Spanish black pig, they love acorna as a food. Goats, cattle, and sheep also graze in dehesa. Then there are bees, wild boars, deers, endangered flowers, mushrooms… A paradise, not only for peasants or hunters…. Cork is harvested every 8 – 12 years, it is the thick growing bark of cork trees. The first harvest takes place, when the tree is 24-30 years old, but the first harvest, the so called “virgin cork” is of poor quality. A very slow circle, isn’t it?
The tree hasn’t to be cut down, but goes on growing. The extractors, workers who specialize in removing the cork, have to be very gentle and cautious not to wound the tree….
It is really ununderstandable that cork is being replaced by plastic, having so much uses and being so sustainable. We didn’t mention cork as filling for baseballs and badminton-shuttlecocks, we didn’t talk about cork as information boards, floors or wall tiles. Cork is used for music-instruments, shoes, laser-printers…..