From the baking sun and endless sea: Salina Capers

14 December 2020

Forty years ago, on Salina, one of the Aeolian islands north of Sicily, Sapori Eoliani, one of the first local businesses was founded. 

This is a story of tradition, love and passion. At a time when the island didn’t receive much tourism, and the idea of reinventing its image seemed impossible, Giuseppe De Lorenzo decided to promote Salina’s most symbolic product: the humble caper. 

Sapori Eoliani has been dedicated to cultivation of this local delicacy for generations; it’s an essential ingredient in many Mediterranean dishes and a symbol of the island. What’s the goal? To pass on a tradition with ancient roots, communicate their love for the land through work that’s done still entirely by hand, and to share the emblem of Salina with the world.

Sapori Eoliani and the Salina Caper Presidium

Raccolta capperi di Salina
Harvesting Salina capers

Their hard work had paid off. The buds of the fruit, known as capers, and the fruit, known as cucunci in Italian, which Giuseppe De Lorenzo had begun cultivating 40 years ago, are now a recognized brand and a Slow Food Presidium. Taking active measures to protect them has proved to be necessary because the difficult of growing them and the cost of production have led to a sharp decline in interest. There’s no real way to mechanize the production process; every step is done by hand. Given the nature of the plant, this requires a lot of effort and determination.

The hardiness of the caper, its wide but uneven geographical spread and the rarity of specific plants mean that despite being widely appreciated, the caper runs a serious risk of being abandoned by producers. Saving the caper means preserving the island landscapes and farming culture that keep it alive.

Under the baking August sun

Maurizia, Giuseppe’s daughter, tells us the story: “The cultivation of capers is a long, hard job. It’s still all done by hand, from gathering them to processing and preparing them. It’s a delicate plant, and it would be unthinkable to use machines. The harvest is intense, because it happens in the hottest months, from May to the end of August, under a baking sun. But the love we have for our work turns this effort into joy. My enthusiasm is partly due to my son, who, taking the company my father built into his own hands, has taken every care to keep the traditions alive.”

Roberto Rossello, Maurizia’s son, took on his grandfather’s legacy with the enthusiasm of a young entrepreneur full of passion, love for his land and a desire to get things done. Roberto saw this family business as his dream. He wanted to spread the word of the unique nature of their work and the quality of the product they make. So he kept the traditions alive, continuing to produce organic capers with an authentic flavor, made with all the patience and passion of times past, all the while renovating the business. He transformed it into a more modern company, studying marketing and communication, every effort going towards increasing the recognition for the Salina caper. Sadly, Roberto passed away prematurely, before his work was complete, and the business was left once again in Maurizia’s hands.

Cultivation and culture

As Maurizia puts it: “Today I’m carrying the torch for my son. I’m committed to spread his message of love and dedication. Our work is one of “cultivation and culture” which is never finished, always evolving. We’re thankful to Slow Food for helping us to achieve the recognition we’ve worked so hard for. Terra Madre this year is another opportunity to tell our story, to grow and move forward even in this difficult time.”

by Carolina Meli, info.eventi@slowfood.it

Sapori Eoliani is present among the Virtual Showcases of Terra Madre Salone del Gusto: along with over 400 other producers. YOU CAN FIND A SELECTION OF PRODUCTS TO BUY (DELIVERY WITHIN THE SCHENGEN AREA ONLY), AT OUR ONLINE MARKETPLACE.