Licata is an ancient town on the southern coast of Sicily, overlooking the western end of the Gulf of Gela. Its beaches are among the most beautiful on the island, but its territory is also characterised by a flood plain known as "la Piana" which originates from the Salso river. The soils, rich in potassium, are very fertile and, together with the high salinity of the water – give particular organoleptic characteristics to the products grown here. Among almond groves and pastures, there are also various cereals and vegetables grown in the dry conditions, in particular the Licata Buttiglieddru tomato, an antique rustic variety that is resistant to hot and cold conditions.
The name refers to the word bottle (bottiglia): the rounded shape with a narrower base and a pointed end is reminiscent of a small bottle. It can be harvested as soon as the skin begins to change colour, in this phase they are best consumed fresh, and they are called "insalatura". When the fruit is of an intense red colour it is also perfect for transformed or processed products. They have an average weight of around 25-30 grams each, the skin is crunchy, and the pulp has a firm consistency. But most of all, the sweetness of these tomatoes is what makes them so cherished by the Licati people. Its brix degree (the scale that measures the sugar content) reaches values between 6 and 8, depending on the year.
The Buttiglieddru are grown in open fields and in dry conditions, on soils that have had their surfaces ploughed. Traditionally, it was sown in December in small holes where manure that was not completely matured was placed prior. The fermentation produced heat, aiding the germination of seeds. The land near the sea was chosen to take advantage of its ability to be thermoregulated. To shelter the crops from the salty sea air, the cold winds and the frosts of January and February, reed barriers were placed about a meter high above the holes, a fan shaped shelter was built using wheat stubble, which would increase in height as the seedlings grew. These techniques allowed for an early harvest and also extended the tomato season.
Today, this traditional open field sowing technique has been taken up again, which allows for tomatoes to already begin to ripen in May. Given the resistance of this variety even to high summer temperatures, in some soils the seedlings are transplanted in May and June, which therefore extends the harvest until August.
Thanks to its sweetness, Buttiglieddru is excellent eaten fresh, but there are also many traditional ways to process it: passata, pulp, dried tomatoes and concentrate. In the kitchen, the Licata people use it in their pasta sauces, by cooking the pasta in a highly concentrated tomato water and then adding Buttiglieddru that have been lightly fried in a pan.
Vincenzo Graci, producer and now a member of the Presidium, recognised the variety and remembered that it was widespread in past years. He then decided to recover it, by involving other growers in the Licata area. Since 2019, open field experiments have begun to bear fruit and the Licata variety made a comeback in the local markets. The Presidium was created to support the recovery of the variety and enhance this antique and precious variety of tomato. The producers who cultivate these tomatoes have signed a production specification which gives guidelines such as that the seeds must be reproduced on the farms where they are planted, the adoption of sustainable agricultural techniques, such as a ban on weeding, and traditional cultivation methods, such as sowing in an open field.
Municipalities of Licata, Palma di Montechiaro, Camastra, Naro, Ravanusa, Campobello di Licata, in the province of Agrigento and Butera, in the province of Caltanissetta.
The Ministry of Labour and Social Policies
Municipality of Licata
The presidium of the Licata Buttiglieddru tomato is financed by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policies, the General Directorate of the Tertiary Sector and Corporate Social Responsibility – notice n° 1/2018 “Slow Food in action: communities protagonists of change”, pursuant to Article 72 of the Tertiary Sector Code, referred to in Legislative Decree No. 117/2017.
Tel. +39 336 401 734