Also known locally as “rosmana”, the pink Roman apple is a flat-shaped apple, with an average weight of about 180 grams. It has a green-yellow skin with pink-crimson red overtones, which are sometimes streaked on half of the surface. It has a firm pulp, is slightly acidic and has a very subtle and typical scent of roses, a marked aroma that increases when they are stored and dried in a fruttaio, which is a special room for drying where it can be kept until late spring.
The pink Roman apple has been cultivated in the Bologna Apennines for probably more than two thousand years, demonstrating a great capacity for resilience and a close link with the territory. Until the 1950s it was still the most widely cultivated variety in the Bologna Apennines, as demonstrated by the Breviglieri censuses of 1929 and 1959. Then apple growing moved to the plains and growing fruit in the mountains was gradually abandoned.
In fact, this cultivar is particularly suited to mountainous environments where it has a more attractive and typical colour and the best organoleptic characteristics. On the other hand, in the lowland areas it remains a green colour, is not very fragrant, has less pulp and not very much flavour.
It has recently been registered in the regional repertory of varieties at risk of extinction and, thanks to a supply chain project, there are now attempts to reintroduce it in the areas of origin.
It is a triploid variety and therefore it is self-sterile, which means that it requires pollinators. Compatible varieties have been identified in the research project. Among these there are native ones that were often found near pink Roman apple trees, and which are now used in new plants as pollinators. The main ones are the lavina, musabò, cavicchio, russet, durello. In the new plants, different rootstocks are used depending on the availability of water.
The pink Roman apple seems to have already been cultivated in the Apennines at the time of the Etruscans and perhaps even earlier. Ulisse Aldrovandi illustrates and describes it at the end of the 1500s, assuming that it came from Epirus, therefore perhaps thanks to the Etruscans or other peoples of Greece. Recent research carried out by the University of Bologna shows that from a genetic point of view it is very close to the few varieties of Roman origin that have survived to the present day. Many of the centuries-old trees still present are near Etruscan and Roman archaeological sites: Burzanella, Monteacuto Girl, Vigo, Marzabotto. Sometimes in churches and castles.
In almost all the farmhouses, and also in the inhabited centres, there are still centuries-old trees of this apple. Therefore, its consumption both transformed into products or fresh is still very locally rooted.
Two associations have been set up for the recovery and reintroduction of this apple in the territories of origin and for the protection of the ancient trees that are still present. The information relating to their harvest, conservation and processing is collected from older farmers but also from the inhabitants of the villages who participate in activities to promote the apples and that are generally members of the two associations. The representatives of the two associations are partners of the GOI project of the pink Roman apple supply chain together with local fruit growers, research bodies (University of Bologna) and local authorities (GAL).
The pink Roman apple is harvested around mid-October. It is consumed from January, when the starch has turned into sugar and the scents and aromas begin to become more intense.
In fact, it can be kept for a long time especially in a fruttaio, in crates, but in particular in attics, where they are spread over wooden floors.
Although today it has been relaunched as a fresh product, traditionally it was mainly consumed cooked. It is very suitable for making cakes and in general for pastries. Currently juices are also produced, and due to their sugar content, they are made into compotes, vinegar, distillates and are dried.
It is currently only available in limited quantities. New factories are being constructed in order to provide products to consumers and local restaurants, who use it in various ways: as a filling for dishes, as a side dish for meats, desserts and ice creams.
It is rich in polyphenols, especially in the peel, in particular in naringerin, quercetin, procyanidin, phloretin. The first two substances have a rather well known antiviral action. It is also used in cosmetics and pesticides.