Almond is the absolute protagonist of Sicilian confectionery.
It was the Arabs who discovered the secret of working the chopped fruits with egg white and honey and it was them who inaugurated the great Sicilian tradition of almond sweets. It is a tradition which has then gathered here and there (from Normans, Spanish, French, nobles, convents, pilgrims…) diversifying from valley to valley, from city to city, from village to village.
The main preparations based on almonds are
Among the first scholars who dealt with the cataloguing of the varieties of almonds present in Sicily, Giuseppe Bianca in his manual of 1872 lists 752 cultivars including the Romana, mainly spread in the territory of Noto and whose name derives from the patronymic of the family of peasants in whose fields it was found and to whom is attributed the merit of spreading it.
There are three varieties cultivated in the campagnedi Noto: Romana, Pizzuta d’Avola and Fascionello. The first one is the one which gives the best fruits from an organoleptic point of view (the taste is intense and aromatic, the color is white-pinkish) but less appreciated by the market (because of its squat and irregular shape). The third variety is a middle way between the first two: similar to Pizzuta for the shape of fruits and “vigorous” like Romana.
These ancient cultivars have a thick and woody shell: an involucre which keeps fats, preserving for a long time the taste and the aroma of almonds but, on the other hand, the yield is not high.
In the almond groves of Noto they work at the end of September to prune the trees, in December to graft the wild plants; three or four times a year they plow the land and once they have to fertilize with cow manure.
Between July and August, the “ciurme” beat the branches with very long canes and collect the almonds in large tarpaulins lying on the ground to bag them and then smash them (the “smallatrice” is a very simple machine: it has a large funnel and a roller that turns, breaks the husk and separates it from the almonds).
Then the almonds are spread out in the farmyard to dry.
All subsequent stages (shelling, roasting, processing) are no longer the business of the farmers, who sell only the raw material. The money earned does not sufficiently repay their work.
Not to mention that almond cultivation is always uncertain. The most serious threat are the frosts: in Noto the almond groves whiten in the middle of winter and a brief return of the frost is enough to destroy the entire crop.
With the creation of the Presidium, a specification has been drawn up and the almond growers have formed an association. The aim is to give greater autonomy to the producers and ensure that in the future the almonds will be small, dried, shelled, peeled and sold directly by them.
Carlo Assenza, Noto (Sr), Corso Vittorio Emanuele 125, Tel. +39 0931 835013 / +39 335 7512584,
Corrado Bonfanti, Noto (Sr), Vico Agliastro 4, Tel. +39 333 2085875, email@example.com
Giuseppe Carbone, Noto (Sr), via XX Settembre 119, Tel. +39 0931 836893 / +39 328 9480430
Concetto Scardaci, Noto (Sr), Via Littara 11, Tel. +39 320 6747170, firstname.lastname@example.org
Salvatore Stracquadanio, Noto (Sr), Via dei Mille 9, Tel. +39 0931 894499