Fruits of Calabria: The Merendella Peach

21.8.2019

Merendella peach is a real delight: small size, smooth white skin tending to green with some pinkish streaks, very sweet and fragrant pulp with a vague hint of honey and citrus fruits.

It is a prized variety of nectarine peach, fruit of the Prunus persica, a tree of the Rosaceae family. The peach was already known in antiquity for the beauty of its flowers and the goodness of its fruits.

HISTORY AND LEGEND

Originally from China, where it was considered sacred, peach soon spread to the East and from there to Europe. It owes its name to Persia, in fact it the word peach means in Persian “deriving from Persia”, and also in many regions the fruit of the peach tree is still called this way but declined to the feminine, in the Calabrian dialect is “perzica”, in Genoan “persiga”, in the dialect of Rome “persica”.

The fruit in China was a symbol of immortality but in other countries the delicious fruit has always had an aura of sacredness. In Japan it protects from evil forces, in China it was believed that by eating it the body was preserved from corruption, in some European countries being under a peach tree and eating its leaves helped to heal from fever and worms.

Juicy peaches

In Egypt the peach was sacred to Harpocrates, god of silence and childhood, so much so that even today the cheeks of children are compared to peaches, for their softness and roundness. It seems that the fruit arrived in Italy, in Rome, in the first century thanks to Alexander the Great, who was fascinated when he saw it for the first time in the gardens of King Darius in Persia.

Since then the tree with its beautiful pink flowers spread everywhere, giving rise to many varieties of peaches and peach nuts in the various territories, such as the delicious “merendella” peach of Calabria.

MERENDELLA, A HISTORICAL FRUIT OF CALABRIA

The Calabrian name of the small peach comes from “merenda”, a Latin term that could come either from meridies of from noon, just to indicate a quick meal to replace lunch, or from the verb “merere”, meaning to deserve or meaning the snack as a meal granted to subordinates following particular working merits.

We find the same meaning in the Greek language, meris which means part.

Merendella peaches of Calabria

The merendella peach also exists in Sicily and is called “sbergia”, but the Calabrian variety, particularly widespread in the Lamezia area and Catanzaro, has special characteristics as described above, probably due to the natural habitat of the territory.

It reaches maturity between mid-July and August, a period in which it can be found at local markets. instead, it is difficult to find it outside the region, as it is a very delicate and complicated fruit to transport.

Special Calabrian Recipes, so typical!

17.8.2019

PURPPETTI” (SPECIAL CALABRIAN MEATBALLS)

Typical of mountain areas, these aromatic meatballs, full of parmesan, black pepper, parsley and a fine powder of stale bread, are now spread throughout the region. They are prepared with a fair amount of protein products: raw pork, eggs, goat cheese and oil and salt.

The dough is then fried, becoming caloric but extremely good.

LICURDIA” (A SPECIAL VEGETABLES SOUP)

This dish has a special taste, it is a must of Mediterranean cuisine, at the same time is a very traditional recipe. This soup can contain various vegetables, such as endive, beets, asparagus or carrots, cooked to become cream to dip slices of toasted bread. In any case, the main ingredient is the red onion of Tropea, absolutely the starring of this recipe with its strength and sweetness.

Licurdia Soup

PASTA E PATATE ARA TIJEDDRA” (A KIND OF PASTA WITH POTATOES)

It is the simpler version of the pasta “ncasciata or pasta a lu furnu” (a baked pasta).

The recipe of pasta “ncasciata or pasta a lu furnu”  is very popular with various names throughout the South. The variants contains various measure of salami, hard-boiled eggs, meat, caciocavallo cheese and provola cheese. All these ingredients come into play.

Instead, the “pasta e patate ara tijeddra” is cooked using only pasta, potatoes, sauce, cheese and stale breadcrumbs.

Baked pasta

LAGANE E CICIARI ARA CUSENTINA”  (A KIND OF PASTA)

The “Lagane” (a kind of pasta) are mixed together with a chickpea sauce. Lagane are among the first types of pasta attested in ancient texts, they are similar to tagliatelle, but their ingredients are only water and flour, they are cooked in salted water, and then seasoned with a lightly fried sauce, oil, garlic, chilli and chickpeas, boiled separately. The outcome is a very traditional dish that comes from afar.

Lagane

“MACCARRUNI ARU FIERRU” (A HAND MADE PASTA)

The ‘fierru’ is the iron instrument (a sort of knitting needle) still used today for the preparation of this pasta. Fresh pasta is prepared with milled durum wheat semolina and water: it is seasoned with very rich sauces, such as beef ragout, pork or goat, or with the beloved ‘nduja.

So called “Scilatelli” or “Maccaruni”

PESCE SPADA ALLA GHIOTTA” (SWORDFISH “ALLA GHIOTTA”)

Swordfish is the protagonist of the Calabrian seafood cuisine, which is influenced by neighboring Sicily. There are various recipes: one of the most famous is the sowrdfish “alla ghiotta” with tomato, capers and olives but the version of Reggio Calabria (“riggitana“) is also widespread, where only garlic, oil and parsley are used.

Swordfish alla Ghiotta

“MAZZACORDE ALLA COSENTINA” (OFFAL ROULADE)

This dish uses the less noble parts of the lamb: lung, spleen, heart, tripe, which  are coarsely chopped and wrapped in the guts of the lamb. After a short turn in oil and onion, the cook adds tomatoes, bay leaves and other aromatic herbs. The “mazzacorde” are accompanied with peppers and browned potatoes.

Mazzacorde

STOCCO ALLA MAMMOLESE” (STOCKFISH “ALLA MAMOLESE”)

In Calabria, the stockfish is part of a myriad of recipes: it is prepared with mushrooms, beans, salad with lemon and parsley and in many other ways. But the most important remains the stockfish “alla Mammolese”: in this small town in Reggio area, the dried cod is cooked with tomato sauce, potatoes, peppers and olives.

Our Stockfish

“MELANGIANI CHJINI” (STUFFED EGGPLANT)

The most common ones are prepared with the filling of the flesh of the same aubergines: the flavor is determined by the mixture with the cheese and the natural aromas. Other regional recipes include stuffing, ricotta, vegetables, potatoes, onion and tomato sauce in the filling.

A great recipe of Calabria

“CREMA REGGINA” (“REGGINA” CREAM)

Legend has it that it was born at the beginning of the nineteenth century due to the mistake of a pastry chef in the preparation of a classic cream.

Calabria has a good reputation in the art of ice cream making. This icecream of Reggio is now considered a Traditional Agri-food Product – based on milk. sugar, carob seeds, rum, candied fruit and chocolate.

Typical Icrecream of Reggio