The zitella apple is an ancient variety originating in upper Molise and Abruzzo, and found throughout the interior of central Italy, at a minimum elevation of 600 -700 metres. Its special feature is its long shelf life: it stores well for up to six months if kept in darkness. Because it is low in pectin, the zitella is not suited for making jellies. Instead, it is often cooked or candied for use in sweets and baked goods, such as panettone.
The peel is yellowish-red, with a rosy blush. The fruit is slightly flat and asymmetrical, and average to large in size, weighing from 50-120 grams. It is highly aromatic and releases its juiciness when bitten into. Its flesh is white, compact, and crunchy.
Its name comes from the fact that, once upon a time, unmarried women, called zitelle in Italian, used its flesh as a cosmetic. Before the invention of deodorants, the zitella apple was used to perfume wardrobes and kitchens.
In Molise—especially in the area around Agnone—many families keep a zitella tree, and it is customary, during the Christmas season, to place a basket of apples on the table, as a show of wealth and an offering to guests.