Italian nuts: the main growing areas

Italian nuts: the main growing areas

In the Italian cooking tradition nuts have always played a relevant role, especially in traditional recipes typical of the several regions from the North to the South. In fact there are many typical regional meals (mostly desserts) that are created by using different types of nuts: panforte (or panpepato) in Tuscany, Sicilian almond paste, nougat, crunchy nougat, Neapolitan mustaccioli, pan dei morti Milanese are just a few examples, but there are many others.

Despite the volumes of nuts produced in Italy not being comparable to those of the world leading producers (among these USA, China and Turkey) and thus not being able to satisfy the entire demand within the Italian market, the raw materials produced in the country enjoy high quality standards and boast various certifications of quality and origin.

Among these, the most famous is certainly the Bronte Green Pistachio, which, in addition to the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), also enjoys the Slow Food Presidium. Bronte is a small town, of about 19,000 inhabitants, in the metropolitan city of Catania for which the cultivation of pistachio is one of the most important sources of income so much so that it has earned the nickname "Green Gold".

No matter the certifications, in Italy there are several areas suitable for the cultivation of one or more types of nuts that acquire specific organoleptic characteristics depending on the variety, the growing soil and the processing to which the raw material is subjected.

For example, Campania is one of the most famous Italian regions for the cultivation of walnuts. The Sorrento walnut is the most widespread and prized Italian cultivar and is the result of an evolution of the common walnut that took place in the Sorrento peninsula. In recent years, however, large walnut groves have also been planted in Veneto and Emilia-Romagna where different varieties of walnuts are grown, including one of the most appreciated from an organoleptic point of view: the Chandler walnut.

Even in the case of hazelnuts, Campania plays a fundamental role in Italian production alongside Lazio. The Tonda Gentile Romana is a hazelnut that enjoys the PDO certification and is also one of the most widespread varieties, used both for fresh consumption and for industrial processing. Other hazelnut cultivars include the Tonda Gentile delle Langhe (PGI), which grows in Piedmont, the Tonda di Giffoni (PGI) characteristic of the avellinese and the Nocchione, another typical variety of Lazio.

For what concerns almonds, the cultivation is particularly widespread in Apulia and Sicily. The sweet variety Tuono (typical of Apulia but also widespread in Sicily) is particularly appreciated for its taste. There are several other varieties of almonds widespread in Apulia: Occhiorosso, Rachele and Genco, just to name a few, while in Sicily those commonly called “Avola almonds” that actually belong to three different cultivars.

A less common type of nuts, but still commercially important in Italy is pine nuts. Pine nut is the seed of the stone pine (pinus pinea) and the most cultivated variety in Europe. In the Italian peninsula these plants are common in Liguria, Tuscany, Campania, Sicily and Sardinia, but pine nuts are also quite widespread in other regions, such as Lazio and Emilia-Romagna. Stone pines are typical trees of the Mediterranean flora (just think of the pinewoods that characterise the seaside areas of Emilia-Romagna), but they are to be found also along the streets, in gardens and parks for ornamental purposes. A pine tree begins to produce seeds only after about 15 years and each plant produces more or less 1kg of pine nuts per season: for this reason and because of the difficulty of processing, pine nuts are considered one of the most expensive types of nuts on the market.

Lately, some agricultural realities in the Italian territory have been opening up to the cultivation of types of nuts that are not naturally part of the typical Italian products. The Pecan, a walnut with a soft and elongated shell, is native to the eastern regions of North America on the border with Mexico, but today it is spreading in several countries with a mild climate, including some regions of southern Italy. This is the case, for example, of the Sirgole company, based in Lecce, which was the first in Italy to produce Pecan walnuts in 1998. Pecan walnuts are particularly appreciated not only for their nutritional properties, but also for their delicate taste, their buttery consistency and their sweeter taste compared to common walnuts.

The choice of buying Italian nuts and dried fruit on Nuturally not only will you ensure a high quality product, but you will also help us supporting high quality Italian agriculture, the people who work in the fields, the fruits that are cultivated every day by hands full of love, effort and respect.


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