The Staffora Valley Pomella is a small to medium sized apple. It has a smooth, waxy peel that is green, with bright red spots when the sun hits it, and small green and white spots that are barely visible. The stem is short and stocky, and of a medium thickness. The apple has a deep, wide stem cavity that is smooth and regular. The white pulp is firm, juicy, sweet and quite aromatic. The apple is usually harvested before it is ripe, between the end of September and October. It then ripens in a fruit cellar where it can resist until April. The product is native to the Staffora Valley, where the tree is highly productive and curves upward. The tree is highly resistant to diseases and grows between 100 and 1,000 meters above sea level.
This apple is also called “Genovese” because of the apple producers’ tendency to go to the Ligurian market via caravans which, since ancient times, have traveled across the ancient paths of the salt routes between the two sides of the Appenines, between Piacenza and Pavia in the north and between Tuscany and Liguria in the south. These caravans, along with other products, mainly carried varieties of apples that can be conserved at length, and were therefore useful on boats for long voyages in which they were conserved in hay. The transportation of apples along the salt routes are cited in the notes of the tolls that the monks from the monastery of San Colombano paid on their way to Bobbio, but we do not know if the apples in question were pomellas. A quote from agronomist Girolamo Molon in 1901 describes the fruit as belonging to a “variety obtained in 1895 from Mr. Barbieri di Borgoratto”. In 1949 this variety was named during the National Congress of Fruit Farming that took place in Ferrara, where it was called a “cultivar” that was widespread in the area around Pavia.
The historic area where this apple was grown and consumed is the Staffora Valley near Pavia, on the hills of the Oltrepò pavese. It is present mainly in two small towns of the area, Ponte Nizza and Bagnaria. Single trees are present in the fields of the oldest farming families, found with Rostaiola trees (another apple that is similar to the pomella) where the tradition of this aromatic fruit that children love is kept alive.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that the market is interested in the Staffora Valley Pomella, due to its small size, even though it can grow quite a bit bigger when grafted onto other trees and thinned out. What’s more, the apple’s form isn’t always regular and the tendency to harvest it before maturation makes it seem sour.