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.

The Pollino White Bean

8.8.2019

In 2019 the municipalities of Mormanno, Laino Castello and Laino Borgo, in association, have decided to establish a special certification of origin of a local food, the so called “Poverello Bianco”, a white Bean, cultivated on the hills of Pollino. This certification is a Municipal Denomination (the so called “De.Co.”).

Landscape of Pollino National Park

It is one of the few cases in which neighboring municipalities recognize a single De.Co.

The regional  authority ARSAC contributed to this important recognition, offering the necessary collaboration to the three Municipalities with meetings between farmers, producers and sitributors, with the preparation of production disciplinary.

BOTANIC FEATURES

The white “Poverello” bean is a local ecotype of Phaseolus vulgaris L., which is cultivated in the territory of the Pollino National Park, in the irrigated areas of the three Municipalities of the Province of Cosenza.

Gorges of the Raganello river

Qualitatively it is characterized by a large oval-shaped white seed, without mottling, with a low percentage of integument and a reduced cooking time. It has a high protein content on average of about 26% and high values of sulfur proteins.

The cultivation of this bean, like all legumes, also has a great environmental value due to the type of root which, penetrating deeply, maintains a good soil structure also preserving it from erosion (such kind of soil protection in Calabria is highly recommended).

Peaks in the Pollino Park

The roots also develop tubercles as a result of the symbiotic relationship with the bacteria of the genus Rhizobium, which are able to fix atmospheric gaseous nitrogen transforming it into nitric and ammoniacal forms easily assimilated by plants and providing a fair amount of nitrogen in the ground.

Pine of the Loricato species

For these reasons, in crop rotations, the cultivation of the white poverello bean, like all legumes, is considered very useful to improve the physico-chemical conditions of the soil.

INITIATIVES TO RELAUNCH THIS PRECIOUS FOOD

Since the beginning of the 90s of the last century various initiatives have carried out to the aim of relaunching the white “Poverello” bean, determining a greater interest on the part of producers and consumers and a consequent increase in cultivated area.

Ancient Pine in the Park

The recent investigation in 2019, in order to ascertain the qualitative characterization of its crop, was conducted by the Agricultural Dissemination Center (Ce.D.A.) n. 2 of the ARSAC of Castrovillari (CS). In collaboration with prestigious research institutions such as the Institute of Biosciences and Bioresources of the CNR of Bari, and the CREA-Research Center for Horticulture in Pontecagnano (SA), the Mediterranean Unversity of Reggio Calabria, and the ENEA.

In all these years, as well as assisting the producers individually, the Technicians have carried out surveys on the agronomic technique, the defense against pests and the quality of the crop by publishing the data in prestigious national and international journals and in acts of conferences.

A Waterfall

The experts even more recently has held seminars attended by young entrepreneurs and concerning both this ecotype and the typical and quality horticulture of the Pollino, leading to the establishment of a cooperative called “Pollino Food Experience“.

THE CULTIVAR

The sowing of this bean is carried out within the first half of June while the harvest takes place by October. As in the tradition, the cultivation technique excludes the use of synthetic chemicals. The product is sold both in bulk and in vacuum packs of 700 and 350 grams.

Sight from the Pollino toward Maratea

From an economic analysis of the cultivation of this ecotype of bean, it emerged that potentially on one hectare it is possible to obtain a production of about 13 quintals (equal to 1,300 kg) of dry product, which, at an average selling price of about 10 , 00 Euro per kg, would provide a Gross Salable Production (GSP) of about 13,000.00 Euro.

Considering that the explicit costs incurred for a production cycle are on average equal to 40% of the value of the GSP – and therefore of about € 5,200.00, a probable income of approximately € 8,000.00 per hectare is calculated.

A Bridge in the gorges

An added value derives from the use of this bean together with other excellent Calabrian products in local restaurants.

In conclusion, in light of the described characteristics and the recognition of the De.Co, this excellent product of our territory, as well as contributing to the further affirmation of a low environmental impact agriculture and to the protection of biodiversity, also represents another opportunity of income for the younger generation.

A lonely giant in the plateau