Chestnut firms up quality-food lead
'Marrone della Valle di Susa' gets EU protection label03 November, 18:24
The 'Marrone della Valle di Susa' won a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) label from the European Commission in Brussels.
The nut owes its creamy-white and crunchy flesh to the special soil of the valley north of Turin, experts say, and has been a staple of the local economy since the Middle Ages.
The PGI certificate of excellence consolidates Italy's lead in the EU's protected-food rankings, with some 900 products, well ahead of France and Spain.
The 'marrone' follows into the rankings a type of wheat called spelt ('farro') once used by the Romans and still cultivated in the fields around Spoleto, which earned a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) appellation in July, the most prestigious of the EU's three food quarantees that keep genuine articles safe from inferior pretenders.
Before the farro, the most recent entries in the rankings were a traditional pastry from Siena and a potato grown around Bologna, which both snagged quality seals.
Siena's famed Ricciarelli biscuits, a slim lozenge-shaped dainty that morphed from an original curly creation by a Crusading knight impressed by an Arab sweetmeat, won a PGI label.
The 'Patata di Bologna' won a PDO.
SPECIAL FOOD SPURT.
Italy's special foods have put in a spurt in the last year.
A fragrant white celery from Sperlonga received a PGI label aimed at keeping other celeries from posing as the aromatic product from the marshlands near the ancient town which have for centuries produced the unique vegetable.
The 'Mela di Valtellina', won a PGI label to guard the strongly scented, firm-fleshed apple from the sub-Alpine valley.
In January that Italian food glory, Neapolitan pizza, got a long-awaited Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG) label.
In December a 'prosciutto crudo' from Cuneo claimed a PDO.
It was the third product to get a PDO in less than a week, following a chestnut from the Tuscan village of Caprese Michelangelo and the Piennolo tomato from the slopes of Mt Vesuvius.
Last October, a traditional sour cherry jam produced near Modena, 'Amarene Brusche di Modena' was awarded a PGI, while 'Ciauscolo', a large soft spreadable sausage from the Marche region, got the same recognition in August 2009.
Other recent additions have included Sicily's 'Pagnotta del Dittaino' bread, with a PDO label; Roman suckling lamb, abbacchio romano, which earned a PGI label; and Modena's balsamic vinegar, another PGI.
Italian culinary glories like Parmigiano, buffalo mozzarella, mortadella, lardo di Colonnata, Ascoli olives, pesto sauce and Pachino plum tomatoes have been protected for some time.
Lesser-known munchies like Mt Etna prickly pears and Paestum artichokes swelled the ranks last year along with two kinds of saffron, from San Gimignano and L'Aquila.
A range of salamis, rices, honeys and nuts are also on the protected list.
Several up-and-coming regional wines have earned TGIs.
PDO identifies a product whose characteristics are exclusively dependant on a geographical origin and whose productive phases all take place in the specified area.
PGI defines a product whose characteristics can be connected with its geographical origin and that has at least one productive phase located in the specified area.
TSG distinguishes a product whose raw materials, composition or recipe, production method or transformation, are of a traditional type.