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The revenge of the Bergamot of Reggio Calabria – Italian Cuisine

The revenge of the Bergamot of Reggio Calabria

A production that is in crisis in the seventies also because of the construction industry that eats all the soils of the Bergamot. But then, from below, comes the rebirth and today for its healthy and organoleptic characteristics it is much loved in the kitchen

We really risked losing it. Then, a revolution started from below, animated above all by Ezio Pizzi, current president of the Consortium for the Protection of the Bergamot of Reggio Calabria, which has set fire to the minds of the Bergamotticultori and has made possible the rebirth of this citrus fruit. But not only: returning to the cultivation of bergamot has taken land away from construction and inaugurated a new season also in the kitchen.

The bergamot in Calabria

Its origins are still uncertain. According to some sources it seems to come from China, according to others it is instead the result of the encounter with citrus fruits from Turkey. What is certain is that it is a cross between grapefruit, lemon and lime, or lime and that there are mainly three cultivars: fantastic, which is the most widespread and profitable; femminello, which is similar; is castagnaro, which due to its fluctuating yield has almost disappeared. Despite not knowing with certainty its origin, over the years it has spread to the province of Reggio Calabria, where it has found its ideal climate especially in those marvelous 120 kilometers of Ionian coast, including the one that has been defined the most beautiful kilometer in Italy, in Aspromonte.

The bergamot crisis

It was in the 1970s, with the building boom and the obsession with brick, that the production of bergamot entered a seemingly incurable crisis: it was the period in which the crops were only pieces of land taken from the buildings and in which the production of bergamot it is not a profitable activity like building, even more so on the sea. Furthermore, at the time, bergamot did not even have a food destination: it was used, in fact, only as an essential oil in the cosmetics and, once the juice has been extracted, as animal feed. But these are the years in which even the farms are severely arrested, as they are part of the general abandonment of work in the countryside, and of the growing emigration to the north. To further aggravate the situation is a sentence that declares it even carcinogenic, probably as a targeted action to feed and incentivize the building market. As a matter of fact, of the 3 thousand hectares cultivated in the fifties, of bergamot there are only a few thousand.

The rebirth of bergamot

With the new century, the destiny of the Calabrian citrus is revived, in particular thanks to the work of Ezio Pizzi who promotes the union of the various remaining bergamotticoltori. «I could not accept that such a unique product suffered harassment from multinationals and other categories. We absolutely had to go back to believing, to join and re-evaluate our bergamot . Thus was born, from the bottom of the note, the Consortium for the Protection of the Bergamot of Reggio Calabria, which also became the second in Europe to obtain PDO recognition (after lavender). Today there are about 600 producers and 486 companies, from the smallest of about 10 hectares, to the largest of 40, like that of the president. From this moment on, it is also decided that to enhance the product the price can only increase, without ever decreasing; but above all it starts to be used also in the kitchen. And this is where the real turning point comes.

The turning point in the kitchen

The change of direction takes place following the result of some analyzes, which reveal how much the principles present in the pulp inhibit the formation of cholesterol in the blood. It is with this news that the interest in the kitchen is turned on, so above all for health reasons, with continuous cooking shows on possible uses. Here the bergamot proves to be excellent for marinate fish and meat without altering the flavor, as it is perfect to contain the strong taste of game or, again, thanks to its bitterness that well balances the sugars, it depopulated in confectionery in desserts, cakes, ice creams, juices, jams, honey, candies, soft drinks, liqueurs (bergamino). But the best of it is given as an element of novelty in haute cuisine: it is appropriate to mention the Sibari risotto with asparagus cream and bergamot prawn tartare prepared by chef Giuseppe Romano of the ME Restaurant in Vibo Marina, a profound connoisseur and active promoter of the products of his own land (acquired); as well as his wife Eleonora Marcello enhances it perfectly in desserts.

Waiting for the recognition as Unesco Heritage, for the very high nutritional, social and cultural value of this product, the president Ezio Pizzi concludes as follows: «If every Italian consumed at least one bergamot a year, we would double the production, thus giving more work in a difficult area such as Aspromonte and the province of Reggio Calabria .

The Golden Fennel of Isola di Capo Rizzuto – Italian Cuisine

The Golden Fennel of Isola di Capo Rizzuto

The gold of Capo Rizzuto is called fennel: a special quality that is characterized by its scent, almost absent fibrosity and persistent aroma

The first time that Mr. Esselunga received fennel from Calabria, he called the producers and said: "Viva Capo Rizzuto, here there is an intoxicating taste in the whole supermarket!" Indeed it is just so: the fennels of Isola di Capo Rizzuto really have something more, both from the organoleptic point of view and from the social point of view.

The origin of the product

According to some sources, the origin of Finocchio di Isola di Capo Rizzuto is to be found in Magna Graecia, in particular in the municipality of Marathon which in Greek means fennel (for the abundance of fennel in the area). In Calabria it has been present for at least 160 years, particularly in those marvelous 5 thousand hectares of Ionic strip ranging from Strongoli to Botricello, up to 200 meters above sea level. Over time it has spread more and more, but above all it has been linked to the local culture, so much so that almost everyone cultivates it, even if only for personal consumption.

What sets it apart from other fennels

The fennel of Isola di Capo Rizzuto differs from the others in three main characteristics: its perfume, which as Bernardo Caprotti noted, is much stronger and intoxicating, especially if cut and opened as soon as it is picked from the field; for the almost absent fibrosity, or at least extremely attenuated, which leads him to have very few "filaments" inside it; and finally for his persistent aroma, which lasts really long in the mouth.

Because it is called "golden"

It is called "gold" because it represents a very precious economic resource for the territory, a gold mine. In the last ten years, above all thanks to the work of the Promoting Committee of the Fennel of Isola di Capo Rizzuto and its President Aldo Luciano, have greatly increased local labor, with new processing and armature creation plants. To date, 60 companies are part of the Committee, even if the number is only growing; their purpose is to promote this product and obtain the PGI, but above all to try to keep most of the processing as locally as possible. "We are selling it both nationally and internationally, always according to good agricultural practices, demonstrating that we can combine quality with quantity". And from a couple of years to May, at the end of production, they also organize the festival in his honour.

The production period

The fennel of Isola di Capo Rizzuto is produced from September to May; it is therefore a long period of production, but which does not include the whole year, leaving the three summer months uncovered (a period in which most of the fennels come from Emilia Romagna). So recently the Promoting Committee decided to experiment with one silana cultivation to be able to have the product also in June, July and August, with new plants on the Sila where the temperatures are different. Waiting for the verdict, we wish you a good tasting.

In the kitchen

In the kitchen it is an extremely versatile product. The best way to fully savor its taste is raw as a meal appetizer or in the end how digestive (remember that the digestive one is one of its greatest properties). But it is also less cooked, for example in creams and velvets, or gratinated, as it is prepared chef Christmas Balloon of the restaurant Ruris of Isola di Capo Rizzuto, combined with the famous Cutro Bread and mixed with Pecorino Crotonese DOP, another excellence of the region. And you think that this dish was even noticed, cited and appreciated even by the "New York Times".

Croquette – Croquette Recipe – Italian Cuisine

»Croquette - Misya Croquette Recipe

First wash the potatoes under running water, put them in a saucepan, cover with plenty of cold water and bring to a boil.
After 20-30 minutes from boiling, the potatoes should be cooked (try the skewering a potato with a fork: if it slips easily, the potato is cooked).
Drain the potatoes and place them in a bowl filled with cold water, then peel them.

Mash with a potato masher, then add egg, parmesan, at least 1 teaspoon of salt and pepper and mix well.

Divide the dough in half, then form the 2 giant crocchès, shaping them with wet hands.
Pass them first in the flour, then in the lightly beaten egg, then in the breadcrumbs.

Fry in already warm seed oil, turning them to make them evenly browned, then drain them on absorbent paper.

Let it cool slightly, then cut them in half and fill them.

Your croquette is ready, serve immediately.

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