Winter is a season that often brings along flu and colds. This is the time of the year in which we mostly enjoy the warmth of our home and the affection of our family. In winter, furthermore, some fruits ripen which are among the best agri-food products of Campania, typical of the Phlegraean Fields area. We are talking about some true jewels that grow on the Phlegraean trees and give us vitamins and antioxidants necessary to better overcome the winter season: the Melannurca (or Annurca Apple) and the Phlegraean Mandarin orange.
The typical products of the Phlegraean Fields
Thanks to its volcanic territory and the fertility of the peculiar soil of the area, some exceptional typical products grow in the Phlegraean Fields region. Among those products, since ancient times, the Annurca apple and the Phlegrean Mandarin excel. Behind their cultivation are hidden centuries of traditions and a history dating back to Roman times. In modern times, together with the ever-growing interest in typical Italian crops and typical products from Campania, there are many events organized with the aim of making known the riches of this extraordinary territory and its irresistible typical Phlegraean products.
Annurca Apple or Melannurca Campana PGI
The Annurca Apple has been known and cultivated for thousands of years in Campania, so much so that today it has reached the status of Melannurca Campana PGI.
At the time of the Romans this incredible fruit had such importance that it is depicted in the paintings of the House of the Deer in the Herculaneum ruins. In his Naturalis Historia, Pliny the Elder calls it “Mala Orcula” because it was produced around the Orcus (the underworld), the name that was used to indicate the area of Lake Avernus. It is therefore inferred that its place of origin was precisely the countryside near Pozzuoli, where traditionally its cultivation has continued, as Gian Battista della Porta also describes in his Pomarium, published in 1583.
This apple retains its origins in its name: soon from “Orcula” it was called “anorcola”, then in the following centuries “annorcola”, until, in 1876, the name “Annurca” appeared in the Arboriculture Manual of G.A. Pasquale.
The Melannurca is called by many the “queen of apples” for the quality of its small spherical fruits with a crunchy, white and juicy pulp, slightly acidic and very fragrant. In addition to being exceptionally delicious, it has considerable nutritional qualities for its high content of vitamins (B1, B2, PP and C), minerals (potassium, iron, phosphorus, manganese) and fiber (ideal for regulating intestinal and diuretic functions), which makes it particularly suitable for children and for the elderly, and very suitable for the diet of diabetic people. It prevents cancer, it is excellent against stomach acid and helps fight urinary tract stones. In short, the Annurca apple is a real blessing for our health.
Another hypothesis regarding the origin of its name is linked to the Latin verb “indulcàre” (to sweeten), which would refer to the particular method with which this fruit is made ripen.
The apple, in fact, ripens in two stages: initially on the tree, from which it is picked to end the process of ripening of the fruits on the so-called “melai” or “pòrche”. These are small plots of land where a layer of soft material such as hemp, pine needles, shavings or other vegetable products is laid, on which the apples are adequately protected from the strongest sunlight, so as to be able to slowly continue the ripening process.
Juices, liqueurs, desserts and jams are the various and exquisite ways in which (in addition to eating the fruit as it is) you can taste this splendid typical Phlegraean product.
The Mandarin orange of the Phlegraean Fields
The Mandarin of the Phlegraean Fields is a small and highly fragrant yellow-orange fruit that is grown in the Phlegraean Fields area: Naples, Pozzuoli, Bacoli and Monte di Procida, up to the islands of Ischia and Procida.
For about two centuries, its production has been passed down from generation to generation. Citrus groves were once an important part of the dowry to be given to a daughter when she married, in addition to the fact that they were traditionally planted also on the occasion of baptisms.
The importance of this small and colourful fruit was so great that, together with wine and oil, it was one of the most profitable agricultural products in the area and it was also massively exported.
This fruit, with its intense and aromatic scent, appears mainly in the winter months, from January to March. The environment and the volcanic territory where it is grown provide it with unique qualities and organoleptic characteristics.
The fruit is eaten fresh or processed in the form of jams and candied fruit, while essential oils are obtained from the peel. As for nutrients, the mandarin is very rich in vitamin C, but it also contains vitamins of the group B, A, PP, folic acid and various minerals including magnesium, potassium, calcium and iron. It also contains bromine, a substance that helps sleep and relaxation.