Onions are not all the same: some of them are excellent thanks to their flavour, scent, and inviting look, too. This happens for the ‘Cipolla ramata di Montoro, which comes from a land between the provinces of Salerno and Avellino. It immediately attracts the attention because of the bright copper-coloured glints of its peel. Its globular shape hides a very closely-knit vegetable, with violet shades. It is characterized by a sweet and unique flavour and intense scent. Its peculiar, delicate and persisting aroma, clear flavour, that however is suitable for different uses and seasonings, allows to appreciate it both uncooked and in the most varied gastronomic recipes. It is a so special onion that it is requested by the best Italian chefs.
From Montoro towards new markets
This valuable bulb originates from the area of Montoro, a big agricultural municipality in Campania, but since a few years its cultivation spread in other municipalities in the province of Avellino and Salerno situated near the Monti Piacentini. This is a very sunny land in the summer, but both in spring and autumn it benefits by abundant rains. Its production has just surpassed 40,000 quintals per year. These numbers are not exceptional, but are anxiously followed by retailers, especially the ones who supply renowned restaurants. Export is carefully followed by local entrepreneurs, who know that they have at their disposal a unique product.
Exalting its quality
Its hard and resistant peels are the best way for preserving this onion, whose production is the result of one year cultivation. The intensity of its copper colour and the characteristic binding with the shape of a plait allow to use it as en element for decorating Italian dishes. Besides in its natural form, it is used and marketed for compotes, jams, ready-made sauces, preserved in brandy, grilled, and in oil. Its packaging is simple. Glass is preferred in order to exalt at their best the characteristic of this onion and combine elegance and rustic flavour of the authentic Italian cooking. Its success in cooking is due to its strong and especially resistant fibre, which keeps in its whole fragrance. Among the different jams, the one prepared with apples, nuts, and coriander is especially appreciated.
Interview with Nicola Barbato, President of the Organizing Committee of ‘Cipolla Ramata di Montoro
What is your personal history as a farmer? Where your way as an agricultural entrepreneur does begin from?
My history as an entrepreneur begins in my family company, with my father and my grandfathers. Then, my father had already begun to change the entrepreneurial reality of the company managed by my grandfather, who sold its products only in the local market. My father began to attend the markets of Northern Italy, so letting know this vegetable of our biodiversity, which was immediately appreciated. Unfortunately, when I had just got my secondary-school diploma I lost my father, who was 49 years old. My personal history began here. I continued to increase our company, purchasing other plots of land and building new plants where we could store the cipolla ramata.
How would you outline an identikit of this vegetable?
It is a sweet, scented onion, characterized by an intense and peculiar aroma, with a delicate, persisting, and unique flavour.
Cipolla ramata di Montoro and organic agricolture: a possible marriage?
Today organic agriculture can represent an outlet for new markets and we are moving in that direction. In our land we produce only cipolla ramata di Montoro, and from June to August, the warmest months, we use the power of the sun because this system does not oblige us to use herbicide for cultivating.
A few numbers…
Today, after 2 years, thanks to the action undertaken by the Organizing Committee I represent and after registering the geographic common trademark at the Italian Patent Office, we tripled our production, that this way reached more than 40,000 quintals. At present, about 40 family businesses, 3 companies, 2 farmers’ cooperatives, and 1 producers’ organization are involved.
Which markets do you devote yourself to?
We met the most important success on both national market and large-scale retail trade; the most important demand for foreign market comes from Germany.
Which is your favourite recipe with cipolla ramata di Montoro?
‘Candele alla Genovese’ (a typical pasta of Genoa), prepared with cipolla ramata di Montoro. It is a white sauce without tomato, prepared with pig’s and calf’s flesh, lard, vegetables, spices, wine, and a lot of onion!