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You certainly have heard of the lemons of Etna. Or the red oranges typical of this area, since they take nourishment from the rich soil of this volcano. Then there is Mt Etna’s apples, and the most famous wines produced from the flourishing vineyards. This volcanic mountain is home to the best Sicilian agricultural specialties. And not only that. The new climate changes and the desire of experimentation of new young farmers brought on Mt Etna some brand new crops. Exotic ones, too. Come find out about them with a perfect food-and-wine tour that goes beyond the tradition.

Mt Etna’s most famous crops

Citrus fruits are the most famous Etna crops, though they mainly grow far from the mountain itself, in the immediate surrounding areas. The soil of most part of the district of Catania often receives the volcanic ash which fills it with nourishment. This makes the local fruits very good. Lemons and red oranges, for example, grow in the plains all around the volcano.

The immediate slopes of the mountain are instead fertile ground for vineyards, orchards – especially the apple cultivation of Etna – and pistachio fields. Etna’s apples are today a specialty recognized for their small size which, however, guarantees a unique sweetness. They mostly grow around Milo (the name of the town itself recalls the Greek word for “apple”) and Zafferana. Pistachios are the famous “green gold” of Bronte, on the west side of the volcano. The vineyards, on the other hand, are  everywhere.

Prickly pears are also everywhere in the territory , even if the organized cultivation of these plants arise in the great plain of Catania. The delicious strawberries grown in Maletto, on the north-western side, are also a typical Etnean specialty.

Maybe you did not know that …

Maybe you did not know that, in addition to Maletto strawberries, Etna is also an area where berries grow well in general. Blueberries, black cherries, blackberries … you find them everywhere. And recently on the eastern side of the mountain, some brand new farms have been specifically engaged in the cultivation and trade of these juicy berries. As if we were in cold England, but with a little more delicious taste!

A wild vegetable that is popular along the coast is also considered a “fruit of Etna”: the “trunzo cabbage”. It is a smaller and a more elongated cabbage than the traditional one, and with a purple colour. You eat both its hard part and the leaves, in the form of a salad or stew together with pasta. In the same area where the “trunzo” grows (Acireale and surroundings) the volcanic soil favours the growth of capers and wild fennel.

On Etna they take great care of chestnut flowers. In fact, their nectar, entrusted to the hard-working bees of Zafferana, is the basis of the precious chestnut honey. Together with orange blossom honey, it is another product of this wonderful volcano.

etna new crops 2
avocados from Mt Etna

The new crops of Etna

Young Sicilians are slowly returning to the work of the land, and they do so with new studies behind them and with experiences gained abroad. For this reason, in addition to traditional crops, new ideas have recently been found on Etna. Very exotic, too.

The Catanese volcano is a rich land for the production of kiwis, increasingly requested by the Slow Food  industry. But avocado plants (video in Italian) also grow here very well . Thanks to the climate very similar to that of the countries of origin, avocados of the Hass, Fuerte, Cocktail and Bacon varieties are born here. Avocados from Etna are small in size but very pulpy.

In the strip of territory between East Etna and the Nebrodi, it was even possible to start mango cultivation! These fruits – here mostly of the Glenn, Irwin, Kent and Keitt varieties – require rich soils and pure water. Both elements that Etna and its deep aquifers guarantee in every season.

Finally … there is bananas! They have always existed around the volcano, but not to the point of allowing to start extensive cultivation. For some years now, however, bananas have also been finding a more suitable climate that allows them to “feel at ease” as they would be in Africa and South America.

Autore: Grazia Musumeci

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