Oranges from Sicily
“Sicily is the country of oranges and flowery soil whose air, in spring, is a fragrance ... ", wrote Guy De Maupassant in his" Journey to Sicily " in 1885.
Sicily is synonymous with oranges: the bitter one, coming from China and Southeast Asia, arrived to this island with the Arabs. Under their domination (from the year 827 until the arrival of the Normans in 1060), the Conca d'Oro of Palermo was one of the wonders of the agriculture of the whole Mediterranean basin, thanks to the extensive cultivation of bitter orange. Moreover, the citrus trees were also used by the Arabs as decorative element of garden design.
In the fourteenth century a group of Genoese or Venetian traders, who had relations with the East, imported the sweet orange into Sicily (probably a hybrid between pomelo and mandarin), whose cultivation was extended, between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, from Conca d'Oro to the territory of Catania, Lentini and Francofonte in the Syracuse area, and to the provinces of Ragusa and Agrigento, acquiring a primary role in the economy of the island, up to the present day.
Today Sicily occupies a leader position in the cultivation of this high-quality citrus, reaching 59% of the total national production. In particular, the Ribera Orange PDO, cultivated in the province of Agrigento, and the PGI Red Orange of Sicily, cultivated in many countries of the provinces of Catania, Enna and Syracuse, represent a jewel in the crown of our national agriculture.
The PDO Ribera Orange has a blonde and seedless pulp with a high content of vitamins (C, A, B, PP), mineral salts and sugars. It is recognized for its sweetness and in 2011 has received the prestigious Protected Designation of Origin Certification (the only one awarded in Italy). The PGI Blood Orange of Sicily, awarded with the Protected Geographical Indication certification from 1996, has a red pulp and includes three varieties: moro, tarocco and sanguinello. Their characteristic blood color is linked to the microclimate present in the Etna area and in the whole eastern Sicily. The production of this variety represents 40% of all Sicilian oranges cultivation.
This variety of oranges is ideal for direct consumption, juicing and cooking. They are considered a delicacy for their unique taste and, besides being an essential element of a healthy diet, they represent a valid aid to health. They contain the precious vitamin C, which increases the immune defenses; they have an antioxidant and anticancer power and help the absorption of iron. Furthermore, they stimulate brain activity, reduce anxiety and stress, help digestion, purify the body and, thanks to their high potassium content, they protect the heart, circulation and kidneys. Being rich in carotenoids, they also contribute to protecting eyesight. The peel is used to prepare candied and dried fruit and to extract the essential oil for galenic compositions, cosmetics products and perfumery.