Apples, pears and cherries were once grown on the agricultural land on the slopes of Mount Etna, inside what is now a nature park. They were intercropped together and with other plants typical of Mediterranean mountainous areas. The growers diversified by growing a number of different heritage fruit varieties, which they themselves had selected on the mountain. The first to be harvested were the cherries, followed by the pears and finally the apples.
Until the 1970s, there was an incredible range of different heritage apples, the most biodiverse of the fruits, with around 20 varieties, some more common than others. The most popular varieties were Cola, white and freckled with a slightly tart flavor, the best known, whose name seems to derive from the first plantings around the San Nicola monastery in Nicolosi; Gelato, very sweet and straw yellow in color; Gelato Cola, whose characteristics were a mix of the other two, as though reflecting a genetic mixing; and lastly Cirino, of which very few trees remain, a small apple with cerulean skin streaked with red. In the 1970s, however, the heritage varieties began to be replaced by Golden and Red Delicious, which are much more productive and were more popular with the market at that time. Over time, other new varieties have been introduced on an even wider scale, particularly international cultivars. The Etna area has also been affected by the general crisis in European apple-growing, with a gradual reduction in the sector’s importance.
These days, only a few growers still preserve Etna’s heritage apple varieties, growing them without irrigation and with respect for the environment. They are cultivated at altitudes between 800 and 1,500 meters above sea level, inside the Etna Park. No more than a few hundred quintals are produced, and most of the fruit is sold at local markets.
The apples are harvested from late September to early November depending on the altitude, starting with the lowest orchards
Etna Park, Catania province
Presidium supported by
The six growers of the Ancient Etna Apples Presidium are united in the
Barbarino Rizzo, Nunzia Gaetano Pappalardo, Valentina Pavone, Alessia Sciuto, Antonella Tredicine and Quintilio Menicocci.
Via Leonardo Sciascia, 1
Zafferana Etnea (Ct)
Tel. +39 380 3612202