Fruit and Vegetables
The privileged climatic conditions make Calabria a continuous source of supplies of high quality early fruit and vegetable produce. The crops are situated in the area of the plains and near to the sea, both on the Tyrrheanian and Ionian coasts. Amongst the products, the first in importance are the onions, the sweet peppers, the tomatoes grown in bunches and the aubergines, then come the figs, the almonds and above all the citrus fruit, oranges, mandarins, grapefruits, lemons and citrons. Last but not least, the production of extra-virgin olive oil should also be counted in.
THE RED TROPEA ONION
The most famous onion in Italy was born along the stretch of coastline between Capo Vaticano and Vibo Valentia, with, in the middle, the beautiful little town of Tropea which gives it its name. The area of production covers the territory of twenty one comuni (municipalities), and three provinces: Catanzaro, Vibo and Cosenza. The protected geographical region safeguards three distinct and recognisable forms of the product: the sweet and tender baby onion, white in colour; the fresh onion, just as tender and sweet, but reddish-purple in colour and complete with tail-ends; the onion for preserving, which is also sweet but crunchy and dry and without tail-ends, sold in sacks, crates or also plaited together.
Each one of these varieties has its own timings. Although the seeds for all of them are sown in September, the early and the baby onion are transplanted between October and January, the late type between January and March; as far as the baby onions are concerned, they can already be harvested in October when the bulb has reached a diameter of between two and four centimetres (three-quarters to one and a half inches) and when it has become a good whitish-pink colour; but the “fresh” onion is harvested from April onwards, and the type for preserving not until June when the bulb has reached a diameter of four to ten centimetres (one and a half to four inches).
It would seem certain that it arrived in Calabria more than two thousand years ago on the ships of the Phoenicians’. It is spoken of in the statistiche murattiane, one of the oldest and most complete documents on the economy of Southern Italy, as being a precious resource for the region.
It is an essential ingredient of many of the well known culinary dishes: it is even part of the recipe for the «pissaladie're», well known also as the pizza all'Andrea or sardenaira, the flat-bread widely diffused between Imperia and Nice. But the red onion, eaten on its own or accompanied by pecorino cheese, can in itself be a magnificent breakfast. It is used to complete, especially the baby onion version, a dish of hors d’oeuvres and is also just as good preserved in oil or in a sweet-and-sour mixture. It is worth noting that one can find on sale an onion paté or jam which can be spread on toasted slices of bread, the first, excellent accompaniments for fresh meat, cheese and others.
CLEMENTINES FROM SIBARI
A hybrid citrus fruit obtained by grafting the mandarin tree with that of the temple orange which was born at the end of the XIX century in Algeria, in a convent-orphanage managed by a certain father Clemente, to whom the fruit owes its name. In Calabria and in particular in the Sibari plains, it found the right kind of land: repeated analyses have lead to the belief that the clementine from Sibari is amongst the best in the world. The ‘protected geographical region’ regards the fruit not containing pips in the territory of fifty nine comuni (municipalities) in all the provinces. The cultivation must take place in suitable soil and according to precise conditions: the existence of the requirements is ascertained by the responsible organisations of the Region.
In order to be entitled to the title under protection, the clementine must be spherical in shape, slightly flattened a the two extremes, even orange in colour, its pulp must be aromatic and juicy, it must have very few or no pips, a rind which is smooth and dark orange in colour, and it must have a high sugar content. The packages put on sale must have a minimum weight of five hundred grams, they must be sealed and display the "clementine di Calabria", together with the ‘protected geographical region’ marking.