Along with citrus fruits (oranges and mandarins in particular), mulberry, medlar, and fig, the plum is one of the traditional crops of the Conca d’Oro, the valley that stretches inland from Palermo—there were once more than ten varieties in the local gardens. Until 50-60 years ago, this area was a huge orchard with a few holiday homes, but the expansion of Palermo, after occupying the coast, invaded the hinterland and destroyed the fruit groves that the poets of the Grand Tour had written about until a century before. Along with the trees, the "wrapped" plums that had filled the stalls in Palermo’s Ballarò and Vuccirìa markets during the autumn also disappeared. By wrapping them in paper just after harvest, late-ripening varieties could be preserved until Christmas. The women of the house made strings of wrapped plums that each contained about ten fruits and resembled paper salamis. These were hung in a cool place and the fruits dehydrated and shriveled slowly, such that the flavors and aromas remained intact.
Monreale White Plums are small, very sweet, and light yellow. One variety is called sanacore, due to the traditional belief that is has healing properties and is good for the heart; and the other is called ariddu di core (“heart seed”) for the characteristic shape of the seed. The sanacore is collected from early July until the middle of August and the sweeter, later-ripening ariddu di core, the weight of whose fruits bends the branches of the young plum trees to the ground, is collected from mid-August until early September. Both varieties are very delicate: During harvest, it is necessary to handle them as little and as gently as possible to avoid damaging the white patina (pruina) that covers them, and the stalk must not be detached. This work is not easy, and one of the difficulties that plum growers face is finding qualified workers. The white plums have been recovered thanks to research work on native Sicilian germplasm undertaken by the University of Palermo, and it is primarily due to the passionate work of some older fruit growers that the local plum varieties have been preserved over the years. Some of the plum trees in Monreale are well over 30 years old. Most of the ariddu di core trees are conserved in a single grove amidst concrete buildings in Monreale.
The plums are picked from July to September, and are available dried or preserved year-round.
Monreale Municipality, Palermo Province
Via Gaetano Filangeri, 48
Tel. +39 331 5934679
di Dario Autovino
Via Pezzingoli, 325
Tel. +39 329 1560420