The San Giuseppe belladonna orange is a late harvest cultivar with a light yellow pulp. Its name is linked to a small town in the northern part of the city of Reggio Calabria: the small town of Villa San Giuseppe, at the mouth of the Gallico river. The area where the cultivation of this orange is located is in the valley floor of the Gallico and Catona rivers and, from the pre-mountain belt of the Aspromonte, until the strait. According to some studies, the first evidence of the presence of this cultivar dates back to 1863, when the professor Pasquale Giuseppe, in one of his agricultural economics papers, describes the citrus area of Reggio Calabria, underlining the excellence of the production of Villa San Giuseppe oranges. The citrus fruits of this area were famous and represented an important economic resource: up until the 1970s they were marketed not only in Italy but also exported throughout Europe, and even reached Russia (for this reason they are also called the oranges of the tsars).
The ripening period falls between the months of April and May but can go on as far as June. The fruits are a medium size (about 200 grams) and have an ovoid shape and thin skin. The pulp is light yellow, very juicy, and has very few seeds. Belladonna oranges are great when eaten fresh, but they can also be made into jams and candied peels.
The local elders say that the cultivation of purtuallu longu (the name of the belladonna orange in the local dialect) supported the economy of these areas because its price on the market, was much more profitable when compared to other agricultural products. In the past the citrus groves were almost always managed by the homestead owner who distributed the work in this way: there was the guardian who estimated the production and controlled the workers, then the pickers, the panarari who brought the buckets full of fruit from the fields, and the taddieri who, would use a knife, to finish the presentation of the fruit by leaving the stem with one or two leaves attached to the orange. The high shelf life stability of these oranges made it possible to store the fruits throughout the summer season in the dark in wooden boxes, in sand from the sea or in beechwood or poplar tree sawdust.
The oranges are harvested between April and June, if they are stored properly, they can also be found in the summer months.
The producers of the Slow Food Presidium community work to ensure that the quality of the belladonna orange is once again recognised and appreciated, inviting local farmers to resume its cultivation. The recovery of the citrus groves does not only represent an income opportunity but also allows the value of a landscape in the territory to be maintained which - thanks to the presence of the orange - has earned the nickname of “giardino sullo stretto” (the garden on the strait).
The Gallico and Catona Valleys, Villa San Giuseppe, Reggio Calabria
Via dei Monti II, 559
Tel. +39 347 5881858
Via A. Garibaldi, 5
Tel. +39 340 9120610
Via Torrente Belfatto, 21
Tel. +39 331 1717101
Via dei Monti II, 417
Tel. +39 340 3043668
Via dei Monti II, 529
Tel. +39 320 1883935
Tel. +39 347 5881858
Presidium Slow Food Representative
Tel. +39 333 8733300