Peaches with a bag

pesca2012Intense scent, golden yellow colour, fresh and compact pulp, and incomparable sweetness, thin skin, adherent to the flesh: these are the features which characterize the Peach of Leonforte (‘Pesca di Leonforte’), a very sweet and scented late peach, available fresh from late summer. Its flavour, smell, and versatility derive from a particular method of cultivation, unique in the world: when they are still unripe, the fruits are enclosed in a parchment paper bag, one by one, in order to protect them from insects, wind, and hail. This is a slow and precise work, which involves the farmers of the province of Enna, an extraordinary land.
The Peach of Leonforte is offered in two varieties: ‘Bianco’ (white type) and ‘Giallone’ (the yellow type). The fruit looks like an asymmetrical globe with small red shades, a yellow and juicy pulp for the ‘Giallone di Leonforte’ versione (the yellow one), a white and even sweeter pulp for the white version. Their cultivation is carried out in compliance with the standards of ‘Buona Pratica Agricola’ (Good Agricultural Practice), either integrated or organic one.

A natural ‘patent’
The parchment bag method allows these fruits ripening later than conventional peaches, so creating a product which, even if it is an excellence when eaten fresh, manages in giving great gastronomic emotions also preserved. The process was invented half a century ago by the agronomist Pappalardo Acireale, who was trying to remedy the damages caused by pests. The first peach orchards were born at Leonforte in the fifties on the clay soils of ‘Contrada Noce’, in an attempt to give a commercial space to the ancient varieties of Sicily. After just four years, the cultivation was abandoned because of the Mediterranean fly. The remedy came some years later. IMG_7437The parchment paper bag in which the fruits are wrapped five months before their complete ripening protects peaches from pests and weather, and avoids the use of fertilizers of industrial origin. This practice spread quickly, and so the story of the Pesca di Leonforte began again. Its taste, but also its aroma, flavour, and the texture of the pulp, which allow this fruit being unique, profit by this cultivation method. This is a hard work, carried out day and night in order to be able to protect and bag all the peaches. This protection had the pleasant side effect of concentrating and enhancing to the utmost sugars, scents, and flavour of these peaches.

The sweet heart of Sicily
The late peach of Leonforte, called 'La Settembrina’ (the Italian word which means ‘September’ is ‘Settembre’)’ is grown in the municipalities of Leonforte, Enna, Calascibetta, Nissoria Assoro, and Agira, in the province of Enna, on an area of ​​approximately 130 hectares. IMG_7325The not great extension of peach orchards is one of the strengths of this production. Leonforte is an area where the microclimate allows cultivating such excellent and truly special products as Arborio rice, black lentils, apricots, broad beans, and other products. This is a small agricultural and gastronomic paradise in the heart of Sicily, surrounded by lakes and mountains. Here excellent olives for such oils as ‘Moresca’, ‘Biancolilla’, and ‘Nocellara Etna’ are cultivated. Another gem of flavour of this area is the ‘Piacentinu Ennese’, a sheep's milk cheese, prepared raw, with the addition of saffron and black pepper.

Yellow and white jams
If for the fresh product it is necessary to wait for the first days of September, all year round delicious jams are available. They are prepared with the two types of peaches, the yellow and white ones: yellow and white jams, with 80% fruit, brown sugar, and lemon juice only, are a concentrate of aromas and flavours. With yellow peach a full-body and dense jam is obtained, while with the white one a jam characterized by a powerful scent, and a delicate and pleasant flavour is prepared. These gems of Sicily are often combined with cheese: the yellow peach is associated with ripe cheeses, while the white one is preferred for preparing sweets or combined with fresh cheeses.

Peaches in syrup
Peaches in syrup, appreciated on the international market, are considered among the best ones thanks to the utmost care and precision with which the fruits are selected one by one. The fruits which have imperfections and even those who are too ripe to be processed into peaches in syrup are discarded: only the fruits which are still quite hard and crunchy are chosen. Afterwards, the peaches are washed, hand- peeled, cut into pieces, always by hand, and are then placed in jars, in which syrup consisting in water, sugar, and lemon juice only is used and then pasteurized at a low temperature. The result is a peach which keeps crisp, fragrant, and tasty, exactly like the peaches of Leonforte just picked from the tree.

A niche fruit and a luxury export
Even if the numbers concerning export are not very large, the Pesca di Leonforte is an ambassador to the products of the province of Enna all over Europe, but especially in Germany. Many foreign entrepreneurs are awaited in the fall for the ‘Festa della Pesca’ (feast of peach), in order to see the picking of these fruits and taste them. About 2000 tons of these fruits are produced, followed by a strict protocol of cultivation which prevents excess on the market.

The rules of packaging
The IGP Pesca di Leonforte are marketed in crates and cardboard or wood boxes, whose capacity goes from kg 0.5 to 6. Each package must contain fruits of the same variety, class, size, and level of ripeness. Uniformity in colouring in relation to the type is required. peschcass1The fruits must be placed on a single layer and separated from each other by means of a protective material. The protective material must be new, odourless, and harmless. It also prevents the product from coming in contact with inks or glues for marking or labelling. Each package must be sealed, so that its opening can be possible by breaking the seal only, in order to avoid altering the content in the following stages after packaging. The logo consists of an oval, within which ‘Granfonte’, the symbol of the city of Enna, is represented, with, in the foreground, a peach packed in a bag.

‘Piersica’, the distillate
From the collaboration with the local distillery ‘Giovi’, ‘Piersica’ (the dialect name of peach) is obtained. It is the distillate of the Pesca Leonforte produced by the company ‘Agrirape’. piersicaThis distillate is realized from the fermentation and distillation of strictly and exclusively peaches of Leonforte. From the still, a high quality 44 degree product results. Its colour is crystalline; it offers fresh, floral, balsamic olfactory sensation. Its bouquet clearly evolves towards fruity, which highlights plum and late peach in the aromatic background. The taste of Piersica offers an elegant and balanced alcohol content. In its aftersmell, its fruity notes are much more clear and persuasive and lead to a pleasantly persistent final.

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