The ferro apple is characterised by its high firmness and shelf life, properties from which it derives its dialect name pomm ferr. The flesh is not very juicy and very firm.
Precisely because of these characteristics it has always been eaten mainly baked. It is also used for the preparation of jams, including the famous savurett or savor, the typical mustard of the Reggio Emilia Apennines used to accompany boiled meat or to prepare desserts. Moreover, since the mid-20th century it was used to prepare flépi or s’ciapèli, dried apple slices consumed by families during the winter or as a typical snack for children.
In ancient times, the cultivation of this variety of apple was widespread throughout the province of Reggio Emilia and is still practised, albeit to a much reduced extent and now only by three local farms. Production survives thanks to local market demand.
In the 19th century, the term pom ferr referred to different varieties of apple characterised by their high firmness and shelf life. Even older are the records in France on Pomme de Fer varieties, as indicated by the dictionary of pomology edited by the French researcher André Leroy in 1873. In Emilia Romagna, the ferro apple was certainly present in the late 1880s, as evidenced by the research ‘I nomi delle piante nel dialetto reggiano’ (Plant names in the dialect of Reggio Emilia) dating back to 1915.
In 1919, the ‘ferro’ apple made up 20 per cent of the apples produced in the province of Reggio Emilia, a figure that however plummeted in the following years until it reached 4 per cent in 1948.
Today, cultivation is little widespread in the province of Reggio Emilia and remains only with scattered plants, especially in the plain and hill areas.