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 especially 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 ( … the Marrone, the Pallanti, the Filone, the Pinnacchione, the Rustica, the Selvatico ) and by Piccioli (1922) which reports 7 including a Marrone grown in the provinces of Macerata and Ascoli Piceno. This Marrone is described as follows: “chestnuts 28 mm high, 32 long and 20 wide, hairy at the top and around the hilum which is small: from Ascoli Piceno and Macerata” . An extensive and detailed study on the best Italian chestnut varieties (Breviglieri, 1955) highlights areas of excellence in the Ascoli area, listing the following samples, attributed to the large group of Tuscan brown:
- Typical sample of the Municipality of Ascoli Piceno, loc. S.Marco. typical, valuable fruits, very similar to Tuscan brown.
- Champion of the Municipality of Acquasanta . Fruits of good uniformity. Analogous to the group.
- Champion of the Municipality of Arquata del Tronto. It has good characteristics, largely corresponding to the typical brown.
- Marrone of the Municipality of Comunanza. Fruits of medium size, rather globose, different from the typical brown.
- Marrone from the Municipality of Montegallo. Fruits slightly different from those of the typical Tuscan brown.
- Marroncino Marchigiano. Fruits similar to those of the group, but a little more elliptical and slightly flattened at the apex.
Guidi’s studies (1993 and 1997) summarize the previous characterizations and on the basis of new acquisitions, the same author describes the characteristics of the chestnut produced in the Ascoli area (ASSAM 2006) with: “medium to large fruits, oval-elliptical, sometimes heart-shaped, with widespread hairiness near the torch and at the edges of the hilar scar; brown-brown pericarp with reddish or havana brown hues, smooth to the touch; darker veins, raised and clearly evident. light brown color and regular outline, flat and elongated rectangular shape, evident stellar radius, sharp and extending from ½ to 2/3 of the hilum. Large torch, generally with 6 persistent styles. Light havana color. Creamy white seed, sweet and delicate flavor, of good quality. Large hedgehog, with two or three fruits, rarely a guscione.
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. For this purpose, two studies are prepared, one on the varietal heritage and regulatory aspects of Marche chestnut cultivation (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 cultivars (defined groups) with dimensional and chromatic differences probably attributable to a Florentine-Casentino ancestor 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 the brown of the 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. The final report also states that “it would be interesting to carry out a specific study for a varietal characterization of the brown common in the various municipal areas” . Similarly, there was no analysis of the chemical, nutritional and organoleptic characteristics.
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 in 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 have been surveyed for a total of 59.7 ha. In total, 222 largely active conductors were identified. According to Santini Ascenzio, local chestnut grower (co. Pers.), The production rate of the cultivars would be: Classic Brown & gt; 50%, Wrinkled Brown 20%, Gentile Brown 10% , N’zita 3 Chestnut -5%, Pallante Chestnut 1%. The presence of Marrone Gentile is mainly located in the hamlet of Umito (municipality of Acquasanta Terme).
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 tree 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 are located in the northern quadrants although there are various stands, generally at relatively high altitudes, facing the southern ones.
TREE: Tree of first size with erect-expanded branches and the greyish bark shows more or less long cracks. The foliage is generally globose-pyramidal but its shape depends a lot 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. Darker 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: The flowers 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 ament to facilitate reception pollen.
POLLINATION: mainly anemophilous but also entomophilous. The chestnut is not autogamous
FRUIT – INFRUCTESCENCE: Constant number of curls per inflorescence. 2-3 achenes of elliptic-transverse and elliptic-enlarged shape. Little or no pubescence of the torch; small hilar scar. Large and very large size (16-20g to over 20g).
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE PULP: white pulp, with an excellent flavor, suitable for direct consumption and the confectionery industry.
PERICARP (or Perisperma): glossy brown tending to light with darker smooth streaks on the back.
EPISPERM: thin but very easily removable integument, it can penetrate slightly into the endosperm almost never septate.
ENDOCARP (or Endosperm): white with polyspermia (polyembryony) and very light incisions.
PHENOLOGY: buds opening in late spring and flowering in early summer. 3.5 months to complete the fruiting cycle. Mid-season harvest.
PRODUCTIVITY: high (about 100 kg) per adult plant in good conditions.
SUSCEPTIBILITY OR RESISTANCE TO PHYTOPATHIES: medium; lower than chestnut cultivars.
PLANT ARCHITECTURE: Tree of first size with expanded semi-upward posture, erect-expanded branches and greyish bark with more or less long cracks. The foliage is generally globose-pyramidal but 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. Chestnuts have less resistance than chestnut varieties.
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 and the conservation technique in “ricciara” is still widespread, ie heaps or pits where the still closed beaten urchins are stratified separated by layers of foliage and twigs and final cover with vegetable material to clean up 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 an excellent quality cultivar used mainly for direct consumption or for the confectionery industry.
The high organoleptic value and the wide diffusion make this brown ideal for direct consumption. The fruit also finds various local gastronomic uses that encourage the possibility of valorisation 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.