HISTORICAL NOTES AND AREA OF ORIGIN
Fruit chestnut groves are characterized by varietal populations or by cultivars of local biotypes, almost always propagated by grafting which make the national and regional chestnut heritage extremely heterogeneous (Bagnaresi, 1977). In the Marche the area of choice for chestnut coincides with the mountain area characterized by arenaceous or marly arenaceous soils limited to the upper Montefeltro (PU) (eg Lunano) and to the Tronto, Fluvione and Aso valleys in the provinces of Fermo and Ascoli Piceno above all in the area belonging to the Monti della Laga and in the non-calcareous areas of the Sibillini Mountains. A study on the cultivars of these areas is due to Gabriele Guidi (Commander of the Pesaro Carabinieri Forestale Group) who in the 90s collected a series of historical and cultural information in collaboration with some local chestnut growers (Guidi, 1993; 1997…). The cultivation of local varieties is already reported in the first twenty years of the last century both by Vigiani (1908 and 1923) who identifies 6 and by Piccioli (1922) who reports 7 including the Inserta or In’zita. The latter is described as follows: “with elongated ovate leaves, acute, unequal at the base, green also below, with shallow teeth, with mediocre mucron: chestnuts 33 mm long and 28 high with a broad hilum” </ em >. An extensive and detailed study on the best Italian chestnut cultivars (Breviglieri, 1955) highlights areas of excellence in the upper Piceno both for chestnuts (6 cultivars identified, including the typical one of Acquasanta, mainly attributed to the Tuscan chestnut line) and for chestnuts (2 cultivars). One of these is the Zita Gentile of the Municipality of Acquasanta Terme described as follows: “Large chestnut, oval. Pointed, dark brown, fairly regular, semi-prominent, hairy apex, medium torch. Large hilum with sinuous outline, very rough, with large radii, with long rays. The chestnuts of the samples examined have a very variable and irregular shape “.
Guidi’s studies of the 90s (1993-1997) start from previous characterizations and refer to the identification of three other cultivars, two in the Acquasanta Terme area (Castagna gentile and Pallante) and one in Montegallo (Primutica), leading to 10 the number of varietal entities. The N’zita is defined as an “interesting variety for size and organoleptic characteristics, considered to have an average commercial value, widespread mainly in the holy water area”.
In 2006 ASSAM under the PSR 2000-2006, measure M “Marketing of quality agricultural products” sub-measure 1 “Enhancement of traditional and quality products” carried out a study aimed at proposing a production specification for ” Marrone della Laga and Monti Sibillini “. This proposal is solicited by some local chestnut growers then gathered in the Association of producers and processors of chestnuts and browns from the Laga and Sibillini Mountains together with the Province of Ascoli Piceno, the Comunità Montana del Tronto and the municipality of Acquasanta Terme. To this end, two studies are prepared, one on the varietal heritage and regulatory aspects of Marche chestnut growing (Guidi 2006) and one on the spread and consistency of chestnut crops in the reference area (Agostini 2006). The Brown variety is admitted which includes groups with dimensional and chromatic differences but attributable to the Florentine-Casentino-Tuscan brown. Two types are identified: one of larger dimensions and shades of darker color and one of smaller dimensions and lighter shades. It is evident that brown from Laga and Sibillini Mountains includes several local cultivars and must be understood as a local quality mark to encourage the production and marketing of chestnuts in a large area that includes the municipalities of Amandola , Smerillo, Montefalcone Appennino, Force, Rotella, Venarotta, Palmiano, Comunanza, Montefortino, Montemonaco, Montegallo, Roccafluvione, Ascoli Piceno, Folignano, Acquasanta Terme and Arquata del Tronto.
According to Guidi (1993, 1997, 2006) in the municipalities of Acquasanta Terme, Arquata del Tronto, Montegallo, Montemonaco, Roccafluvione there is 90% of the chestnut area of the province of Ascoli Piceno. According to this author in Pozza and Umito di Acquasanta Terme, some of the most valuable chestnut groves in the region grow. A census on fruit chestnut groves in the Unione Montana del Tronto and Valfluvione was prepared in 2015 in the municipalities of Ascoli Piceno, Acquasanta Terme, Arquata del Tronto and Valfluvione (Santini, 2015). 512.8 ha of fruit chestnut groves currently in cultivation were recorded, of which 2.5 ha are newly planted, 5.1 ha come from the conversion of the coppice chestnut grove and 505.2 ha are traditional (wood). In the municipality of Acquasanta Terme the census took place in most of the hamlets for a total of 362.5 ha; in that of Arquata del Tronto in the hamlets of Trisungo and Faete for a total of 72.6 ha. In the municipality of Roccafluvione it took place in the hamlets of Meschia and Scalelle for a total of 17.9 ha. Finally, in the municipality of Ascoli Piceno some chestnut groves present in the hamlets of Cervara, Piagge, San Marco and Colle for a total of 59.7 ha have been registered. In total, 222 mostly active conductors were identified. According to Santini Ascenzio, local chestnut grower (co. Pers.), The productive incidence of the cultivars would be: Classic Brown & gt; 50%, Wrinkled Brown 20%, Gentle Brown 10%, Chestnut N’zita 3-5% < / strong>, Pallante Chestnut 1%. The presence of N’zita is mainly located in the area of Pozza and Umito.
BIOLOGICAL DESCRIPTION AND PEDO-CLIMATIC NEEDS
Fruit chestnut groves grow on loose, well-drained, neutrophilic or weakly acid soils (pH between 5 and 6.5) which in the Marche are those generated by arenaceous or marly arenaceous substrates (eg terrigenous Flysch of Monti della Laga). They are lacking in clayey soils both for their chemical composition and for their tendency to water stagnation which favors rot. In general, the chestnut also avoids calcareous soils if not in the presence of magnesium and sufficient hydration (some areas of the Sibillini). They are present at altitudes between 300 and 950 m.s.l.m. and together with the chestnut coppice, they constitute an almost continuous band interposed between the thermophilic oak woods and the beech woods. most of them towards the northern quadrants although there are various stands, generally at relatively high altitudes, facing the southern ones.
TREE: of first size, often over a hundred years old, semi-rising habit with columnar stem, globular crown but more collected than other local cultivars, although dependent on the pruning carried out. High vigor.
ADULT LEAF: The leaves are alternate, with a short petiole and two oblong basal stipules. The lamina is 16-28 cm long and 5-10 cm broad, lanceolate, sharp at the apex and serrated at the margin, with sharp and regularly displaced teeth. Brighter green color on the upper page.
INFIORESCENCE: formed by male flowers arranged in erect catkins emitted at the axil of the leaves, 5-15 cm long. More numerous than browns. The flowers are not a discriminating character between the different local cultivars
FLOWERS: they are unisexual, present on the same plant (but not interfertile): the male ones are gathered in small glomeruli and are whitish, the female ones isolated or gathered in groups of 2-3 in the basal part of the adament to facilitate the reception of pollen .
POLLINATION: mainly anemophilous but also entomophilous. The chestnut is not autogamous
FRUIT – INFRUCTESCENCE: Constant number of curls per inflorescence. 2-3 elliptical-enlarged achenes inside the hedgehog characterized by short spines (compared to other local cultivars). Poor pubescence of the torch. Wide hilar scar. Medium to large size (10-15g to 16-20g).
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE PULP: light cream colored pulp, rich in starches, good flavor but less sweet than chestnuts. Suitable for flour and less for direct consumption.
PERICARP (or Perisperma): shiny light brown color with smooth darker streaks on the back.
EPISPERM: thin integument adhering to the frequent incisions of the endosperm and therefore not easily removable. Fruit not always completely set.
ENDOCARP (or Endosperm): light cream color with frequent polyspermia (polyembryony) and presence of incisions.
PHENOLOGY: buds opening in late spring and flowering in early summer. 3.5 months to complete the fruiting cycle. Earlier than chestnuts with early season harvest.
PRODUCTIVITY: high (80-100 kg of chestnuts per adult plant in good conditions. 100-130 kg in plants of 20-25 m in height); size
SUSCEPTIBILITY OR RESISTANCE TO PHYTOPATHIES: good; greater than browns
PLANT ARCHITECTURE: Tree of first size with columnar stem with erect-expanded branches and the greyish bark shows more or less long cracks. The foliage is generally globose-pyramidal and its shape depends a lot on the pruning carried out.
RESISTANCE TO ICE CREAM: the chestnut is a late species and in general it can resist up to -25 ° C. This cultivar has a higher resistance than that of browns.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR USE
AREA OF USE: widespread in the municipality of Acquasanta and especially in the hamlets of Pozza and Umito. It constitutes about 3-5% of the cultivated material. Decreasing due to competition from chestnuts (greater commercial value). Also typical in abandoned fruit chestnut groves.
AGRONOMIC BEHAVIOR AND TECHNOLOGICAL AND ORGANOLEPTIC CHARACTERISTICS OF THE PRODUCT
The fruit chestnut groves grow on basically acid soils, formed on arenaceous or marly arenaceous substrates, at altitudes between 300 and 950 m.s.l.m. and together with the chestnut coppice, they constitute an almost continuous band interposed between the thermophilic oak woods and the beech woods; the same are mostly exposed towards the northern quadrants although there are various stands, generally at relatively high altitudes, facing the southern ones. All the traditional fruit chestnut groves of the Marches are in fact considered woods according to the forest law n. 6 of 2005 and therefore are subject to the rules of the Prescriptions of the Maximum and Forest Police (PMPF) specifically indicated in art. 32 of chapter V (Particular rules for chestnut groves, wood arboriculture systems, riparian formations and truffle fields). In the fruit chestnut groves currently in cultivation, the following ordinary cultural treatments can be freely exercised: a) pruning for breeding, training, production and rejuvenation, including topping and preparation of rootstocks; b) performing grafts; c) cutting of invasive vegetation and cleaning of the surface in order to facilitate the harvesting of chestnuts; d) the formation and restoration of shelves supported by dry stone walls and grassy edges. Other cultivation interventions are allowed upon request for authorization or notification of the start of works as provided for by the PMPF themselves.
The cultivation techniques are the traditional ones of the area. In particular, the use of synthetic fertilizers and the use of pesticides in the production phase is prohibited. Pruning and cleaning of the ground are practiced. The grafts are practiced mainly in flasks using 1-2 year old scions on rootstocks made up mainly of suckers.
Harvesting is mainly manual on the ground and the “ricciara” conservation technique is still widespread, ie heaps or pits where the still closed hedgehogs are stratified separated by layers of foliage and twigs and final cover with vegetable material to clean the chestnut wood. The brown ripens slowly in about 1 month and is then ready for consumption and can be kept naturally for about 1 year. Another method of preservation is the “cure” a sort of sterilization in water and subsequent drying.
It is a good quality cultivar mainly used for the production of flour and therefore decreasing due to the competition from the much more profitable local chestnuts intended for direct consumption or for the confectionery industry.
Although of lesser organoleptic value for direct consumption, the fruit finds various local gastronomic uses that encourage the possibility of enhancing it in the territory. It can in fact be used for the preparation of sweet Ascoli Piceno ravioli, jams, and also for the preparation of beer and other typical dishes served in local farmhouses. A provincial association of chestnut growers had been set up and no longer active.