Vesuvius provides fertile soil, well-suited to the cultivation of high-quality fruits and vegetables. They’re unique products, symbolic of the local culture and, indeed, the history of the families that live here.
In this enchanting terrain the Ager company was founded in 1890, now run by Gaetano Romano, who represents its fifth generation of farmers. They have six hectares of land where the Romano family has grown local products without pause, in particular the apricots of Vesuvius, which are now a Slow Food Presidium.
Gaetano is proud of his work. “These six hectares, and what we grow here, are the history of my family. Many of these characteristic products risked being lost. I work with passion, every day, to preserve them and safeguard them. Above all, the heirloom varieties of Vesuvian apricots.”
apricots with a surname
Gaetano continues: “In the 1970s Campania was the most productive region in Italy for apricots. There were 100 different varieties. Each variety took its name from the family that grew it. It was a means of supporting ourselves. Me and my brothers, thanks to the apricots, were able to go to university. For me these fruits are a symbol of our culture, their perfume reminds me of my childhood, their color is the color of our traditions.”
The diminished importance of Campania’s apricot production is clear from the statistics: in the 1980s this region produced 40% of Italy’s national total, including 70% of all the apricots grown in the South. Today it grows 30% of the national total, and only 40% of those grown in the South.
The farmers growing apricots today are few. This precious fruit has suffered at the hands of globalization and competition from fruits of all kinds imported from across the world, at lower prices.
A fruit with a breathtaking aroma
Gaetano works hard to make sure the quality and the true value of these apricots is understood: “They’re taste and perfume is unique, breathtaking. Anyone who tastes them even once in their life is able to tell the difference, to notice their superiority compared to those we usually find on the market nowadays. But unlike other apricots, they rot more quickly after being harvested. This is normal: it’s a product grown in a completely natural manner. For these reasons, we concentrate a lot on conserves and juices . The quality is incomparable.”
Gaetano speaks of the ever more urgent need to raise awareness of these near-forgotten apricots within the region of Campania itself. So he decided to take them to the small local markets, tell their story to customers, show off their perfume and flavor. He then started to take part in bigger events with the same goal: to make sure these local gems didn’t disappear. Then came Slow Food.
The birth of the Presidium
The Slow Food Presidium aims to relaunch this product by safeguarding the biodiversity of the local heirloom apricot varieties, protecting the old orchards, identifying the most widespread cultivars among those still grown, and improving the systems of harvest and trade to bring out the best of their sensory qualities, highlighting the differences of each one.
As Gaetano tell it: “In 2017 a new adventure started. The first victory was the founding of the Slow Food Presidium for the heirloom Vesuvius apricot varieties. The goal is to spread the word of more and more different varieties of our apricots and share their story, which is the story of our roots, of all those families of farmers who took care of these orchards for generations. The value of the land and its biodiversity we have here must not be forgotten. It deserves to be shared, appreciated and encouraged.” That’s Gaetano’s story, but above all of a unique fruit, an extraordinary product that must be safeguarded.
by Carolina Meli, email@example.com