Plum tree, together with citrus fruits – oranges and tangerines in particular – is one of the traditional cultivations of the Conca d’oro together with mulberry trees, medlar trees, figs: once in the gardens around Palermo there were more than 10 varieties and in a descriptive text of the seventeenth century by Francisco Cupani (Hortus Catholicus, 1696) there are precise references to the “bruna di cori janchi e niure”.
Until fifty, sixty years ago this area was a huge orchard interrupted by a few holiday homes but the building expansion of Palermo, after having occupied the coast, has invaded the hinterland and has erased much of the citrus groves and orchards sung by the poets of the Grand Tour.
And together with the cultivations have disappeared also the plums “wrapped” that filled in autumn the stalls of the markets of Ballarò and Vuccirìa. With the wrapping, practiced after the harvest, the late plums, the ariddu di core, were preserved until Christmas.
The women of the house wrapped the fruits in long tissue paper bags, one by one, tightly closed and tied with string. Each paper sausage contained about ten plums. They hung them in a cool place and the fruits dehydrated and shriveled up, keeping however intact aromas and flavors for festive meals.
The white plums of Monreale are small, with a light yellow skin and very sweet.
One variety is called “Sanacore” (locally: it heals the heart), because an ancient belief attributed it also curative values, the other one is called “ariddu di core” (that is: heart-shaped seed) for the characteristic shape of the seed which recalls the heart.
Sanacore is harvested from the first ten days of July to the half of August, whereas Ariddu di core is late and particularly sugary: the fruits, which bend to the ground the branches of the saplings, are harvested from the half of August to the beginning of September.
Both are very delicate: during harvesting it is necessary to handle them as little as possible in order not to damage the bloom, that is the white patina that covers them, and the stalk must not be detached.
It is not easy: one of the problems of farmers is in fact finding skilled laborers for the harvesting.
White plums have been recovered thanks to a research work on Sicilian autochthonous germplasm by the Department of Arboreal Crops of Palermo University, but it is the passion of some older fruit growers who have preserved the saplings of ancient varieties of plums, some of which are more than thirty years old. Most of the core ariddu plants are instead preserved in a single handkerchief of green surrounded by buildings and cement in the municipality of Monreale.
The Presidium currently brings together three growers of these two ancient varieties of white plums: almost all the gardens of Monreale have these trees, but there are few left to cultivate at least one hectare of plums and earn an income from them.
Currently farmers sell plums directly on the market or they entrust them to wholesalers of the general markets of Palermo and Trapani. The white plums of Monreale are much appreciated by the people of Palermo, at least the older ones – young people already do not distinguish them from the many international hybrids – but elsewhere they are not known.
The objective of the Presidium is to sell the plums under a common brand name and create a larger alternative market, where the fruit can fetch a more remunerative price. Above all, the Presidium aims to recover the tradition of wrapping the Ariddu di core cultivar: the women of the Presidium are working together to produce wrapped plums, jams, plums in syrup and candied plums used to decorate cakes and cassata.
Marilù Monte, Pioppo Monreale (Pa), Contrada Cozzo del Pigno, Tel. +39n 091 8889148 / +39 328 9714674, firstname.lastname@example.org
Verdi Colline, di Salvatore Autovino, Monreale (Pa), Via Pezzingoli 325, Tel. +39 091 414001 / +39 329 1560420, email@example.com
Girolamo Vittorino, Monreale (Pa), Via Esterna Reali Celsi 47, Tel. +39 091 414522 / +39 320 3657569, firstname.lastname@example.org