Scillato is a town that lies in the Himera River valley, at the feet of the Regional Madonie Park, near Palermo. Ancient spring waters enrich the land, which boasts gardens, olive groves and fruit orchards. The countryside is characterized by flourishing citrus groves that have many particular varieties of fruit that are both late blooming and succulent.
But this territory is first and foremost the production area of a particular early-blooming apricot, with small, intensely flavored fruit, extremely fragrant and often spotted in red. Local farmers have always considered this variety a special fruit and as a matter of fact people used to come from all over, following the fame of the apricot’s fragrance and taste.
Harvest begins at the end of May and usually lasts two to three weeks.
The cultivation is traditional: each year the trees are trimmed, there are no chemical treatments used – neither on the ground nor on the fruit – and the apricots are handpicked using a ladder. The trees, between 30 and 40 years old, are quite large.
The fruit is sensitive to handing and transportation and thus they are marketed only to nearby areas.
All of the rural families in Scillato prepare a delicious apricot jam each year. But still, pressure from more profitable products and more dynamic markets have pushed this variety to the edge of extinction.
The fruit begins to mature at the beginning of May and generally lasts two to three weeks.
About a year ago, five young people decided to work on promoting the products of their territory, transforming this passion into a reason not to abandon Scillato. They have thus created an association (called I Carusi, which is the Sicilian dialect means “the guys”) and begun recovering old, abandoned apricot installations. They are currently working on setting up new installations, so as to increase the area and yield of Scillato apricots.
Furthermore, they have recovered the traditional recipe for the town’s apricot jam, with the help of local mothers and grandmothers, and have planted gardens next to each fruit orchard, thus enriching local diets and those of some of the neighboring towns. In this village with so few people, their activity has rekindled both dynamism and a sense of hope for the future.