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The annurca apples, the histoy and the typical features of the fruit which is a symbol of Campania

21/10/2010

"Annuche" apples

by Pasquale Carlo

A journey thorugh the reign of the "queen of apples": Valle di Maddaloni, Dugenta, Melizzano and Sant’Agata dei Goti

Those who travel in the area consider the stately archdes of the Ponti della Valle the ideal border between the provinces of Caserta and Benevento. The province of Caserta is carachterized by a prosperous countryside which rencently has been invaded by buildings and chaos whereas the province of Benevento is verdant and includes small villages which are few on the border with the Molise and Apulia border.

Those who go from the Naples area to the province of Benevento, after the architectural barrier projected by Vanvitelli where the between the followers of Garibaldi and the Bourbon troops clashed, run into stalls fruit and agricultural products, above all the "annurche" apples.

The battle which took place on October 1, 1860

This is the reign of this very old and tasty fruit: it is produced above all in the Phlegrean Fields, the Aversa and Caserta area and in the Maddaloni Valley (in the province of Caserta) and Sant’Agata dei Goti, Melizzano and Dugenta (in the pronvince of Benevento).

The stalls with big baskets full of apples struck even the theatre Neapolitan genius Eduardo De Filippo who wrote the work "De Pretore Vincenzo" in 1974. It was the story of a delinquent who escaped from the village where he had grown up and moved to a big city. The village was Melizzano. "Melizzano - De Filippo wrote - is five kilometres away from Naples, before Aversa. It isn't a rich town, but is very poor". The apples were an important resource for the inhabitants. They were picked at the beginning of winter, the top-quality ones were sent to Naples and worldwide whereas the small and ones were given to pigs and poor people. There were red apples everywhere.

Eduardo's work inspired by Melizzano

This fruit run the risk of disappearing: the "annurche" apples were widespread until the second world war, in the Fifties and Sixties they were replaced by "the new apples" coming from America which could be produced easier.

Now these apples are appreciated even by demanding gourmets. This kind of apple is defined "the king of apples" and has the IGP mark.

They are small, sweet, juicy, aromatic and slightly acid and above all keep these organoleptic features for a long time.

Undoubtedly it is one of the symbol of Campania since remote ages, at least two millenniums as showed by the paintings in the Ercolano excavations (above all in the Casa dei Cervi), the Roman city destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius (AD 79).

A fresco in Ercolano

These apples come from the Pozzuoli area, as written by Pliny the Elder in the "Naturalis Historia". At that time this area was considered the seat of hell. In the sixteenth century Gian Battista della Porta wrote about these apples from Pozzuli in the "Pomarium", he wrote that they have a red rind and are sweet. The name "annurca" was included in the Arboriculture Handbook by the botanist Giuseppe Antonio Pasquale (1876).

In the centuries before these apples spread in the Aversa area and on the border between the province of Benevento and the province of Caserta, in these places their features were enhanced. Then they spread in the Nocera, Irno and Picentini area and then in Upper Caserta.

In 1950 Giuseppe Fiorito wrote the pamphlet about the "queen of apples" where it was considered a masterpiece, the result of the great care of farmers.

The pamphlet by Giuseppe Fiorito

These apples are not only picked but also treated and selected beacuse the ripening doesn't take place on the plant. These apples have to be picked unripe because the stalk is short (7-14 millimetres) and isn't very strong and for this reason the fruit doesn't ripen on the tree.

They are picked in October, then they are put in baskets and are left to ripen. These apples have to be picked when weather is fine and in a dry place (they have not to be wet with dew).

Of course these apples are hand-picked and hand-processed and water stagnation has to be avoided. Farmers create a soft bed with straw, pine needles and wood shavings. Since some decades ago they used the less valuable part of the hemp processing which is obtained from an herbaceous plant widespread in Campania until the half of the Sixties (almost all the hemp produced in Italy in that period came from Campania and Emilia Romagna).

Apple ripening

In October and November, going along the road which connects the Maddaloni Valley with Dugenta and Sant'Agata dei Goti, you will be struck by the red colour of this fruit which makes this landscape lively.

On the "beds" there are only the apples without parasites and parasiticide waste. The apples are placed in lines in order to expose the white parts to sunlight. The apple field is covered with a cloth to protect the apples from the sunlight and the inclemency of the weather (in the past they used chestnut branches). The apples have to be watered in the evening in order to avoid the loss of water which would cause the wrinkling and the ripening slowdown.

Usually these apples ripen at their best around the middle of December: in fact in Campania people finish their Christmas lunch with these apples.

During the ripening they are turned many times, according to the weather and the rotten apples are eliminated. This ripening and the processing for the optimum conservation are much more expensive than the ones for the apples which are sold after picking. But even so people from Campania and Lazio have always loved the "annurca" apples.

The "annurca" apple, the "queen of apples"

Turning red they get the typical features which make them unique. This was the result of the study about the qualitative features and the aroma realized by the Experimental Institute for the Technological Enhancing of Agricultural Products in Milan and made known at the 4th national meeting on biodiversity in Bari. The apples, picked at the Ciampino (Rome) Fruit-Growing Institute, were divided into two halves, a part was addressed to the Experimental Insitute and the other part was exposed to sunlight for about thirty days and then sent to Milan. At the Institure the apples were divided into two parts: a part was analysed and the other part was preserved at 1C for six months and analysed after this processing. These apples, after turning red, have acidity and consistency and include more ethylene and aromas.

When they turn red the quality of the aroma improves.

The features of the traditional "annurca" apples are described in a work realize in 1995 by the Sant'Agata municipal tourist board ("L'Annurca Tradizionale" edited by Marco della Peruta and Marco Razzano). These apples aren't too big, are quite flat or spheroidal. The stalk is short, medium thick or thin; the rind is thick, yellow-greenish with red stripes on 40%-70% of the surface, they become deep red when exposed to sunlight, the skin is smooth, waxy and rusty with small, grey and rusty lenticels. The pulp is white, sligthly red after the skin. They are crisp and quite tough. They are sweet and slightly acid thanks to the saccharose and the citric acid. They are also juicy as showed by the quantity of liquid in your mouth during mastication.

Some apples ready to be enjoyed

These apples can be enjoyed during the 18th festival organized by the Maddaloni Valley municipal tourist board in cooperation with the municipal administration, the producers and the local associations (22 - 24 October). For further information visit this website: www.sagradellamelaannurca.it

Traduzione in italiano su http://www.lucianopignataro.it/a/la-mela-annurca-storia-e-tipicita-del-frutto-mito-della-campania/16168/

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