Once Palermo was the heart of the Conca d’Oro. The plain that surrounds the city until the middle of the last century was a single, large garden that welcomed in the green of its citrus groves the travelers who ended the Grand Tour here: a mythical place, told by poets and writers, which went from Villabate to Sferracavallo.
In the period of maximum extension covered about 15 thousand hectares of intensely cultivated land. The gardens reached up to 250 meters above sea level, held back by dry stone walls: a complex of canals, wells and pumps – first animal-drawn, then mechanical – ensured the regular supply of water.
Today there is little left of the Conca d’Oro: in the last fifty years the cultivated land has been reduced by almost 80%, the city has expanded and is still built, with high risks of hydrogeological instability: the terracing of the gardens, in fact, act as a bulwark against the mountain that landslides to the plain with every rain.
Even the climatic balance of the city is at risk: the agricultural areas cultivated with citrus fruits are a very important green lung to ensure the right degree of humidity and a constant enrichment of groundwater.
Nevertheless, there is still a portion intact: they are the villages of Ciaculli and Croceverde Giardina, cultivated almost entirely with mandarins and where, in the ’40s, due to a spontaneous mutation of the mandarin avana, a new variety was born that matured later, from January to March.
A mandarin with very few seeds, very sweet, juicy and with a fine skin that spread quickly among the growers of the area. Today, the Tardivo (which is a fruit maturing later) is the most prestigious production of the consortium, which brings together 65 small growers – owners of a total of about 80 hectares – all of whom are essentially organic (the tardivo is resistant and does not require special treatments).
The properties are very parcelled out: given the reduced earnings, the potential income from the sale of land today is still higher than the agricultural income from the sale of citrus fruits. Growers are discouraged and at this rate, within ten years, could abandon the remaining citrus groves.
A project of the city of Palermo, financed by the European Community, has created an agricultural park in the area of Ciaculli and Croceverde Giardina. Constraints have been placed on building activities and measures have been put in place to encourage agriculture by funding promotional activities for local agricultural products carried out by the Consortium “Il Tardivo di Ciaculli”.
The Presidium aims to give continuity to this action. Among the priorities: to give visibility to the consortium that brings together the small growers of mandarins and to make known this variety of undoubted quality but, above all, to safeguard what remains of the splendid gardens of Palermo.
The late Ciaculli mandarin is juicy and has a high sugar content, therefore it is delicious fresh. The Consortium packages it in wooden boxes and in smaller cardboard boxes marked with a common logo. Sicilian confectioners and ice cream makers use it for a variety of transformed products: granitas, ice creams, jellies, juices, liqueurs and, with the addition of a little lemon juice, jams.
The 65 citrus growers are united in the:
– Referente dei produttori del Presidio: Giovanni D’Agati