Merangolo of Ferentillo
Citrus x aurantium L.
RISK OF EROSION High
DESCRIPTIONThe centuries-old presence of the Amaro or Merangolo species in the territory of the Province of Terni is attested by numerous historical documents dating back to the 14th century. The particular meteorological conditions of some areas of the Province of Terni have allowed not only the survival of the bitter orange over time, but also its spread throughout the territory. There are many uses that were used in the past with fruits (bruschetta, condiments, sweets, sausages); a very strong association seems to be that with oil and in particular with Frantoi. Several of the accessions recovered in the reference area, including the one described here, were found in the immediate vicinity of Frantoi, some of which are no longer active. One hypothesis is that merangola juice was used to dilute “strong” aromas and flavors of oil, once characterized by much lower quality aspects than today.
Fruits of medium-small size (119 g) and obvoid shape, have a truncated and concave base, while the apex is hollow. Orange-colored skin, with faint luster and wrinkled texture. Yellow albedo with moderate adherence to the pulp. The fruits have on average 8 segments, uniform among them, with a solid central axis.
BACKGROUND The oldest known historical reference to date relating to the presence of fruits attributable to citrus fruits is found in the Reformations of the City of Terni which as of November 16, 1388 report the taxation of “Mella oranges for each soma four soldi and eight denari” . In itself, this data does not say much about the real presence of plants on the territory but only about the taxation and therefore the exchange and trade of these fruits which could very well have come from other areas as well. On the other hand, the reference to the cultivation of “oranges” found in a manuscript of 1697 that speaks of the agricultural habits of the State of Ferentillo is of considerable help for research. “[…] and soon the fruits ripen there and those that are in the center of the Valley with sharper, warm and humid air, indeed they have a sky that concurs with that of Rome and Naples, which Kingdom is Levante, and other places of the Mediterranean sea, since there are oranges, lemons, and other similar fruits, which love sweet and sweet air […] “. Another fundamental historical fact on the presence of citrus fruits in ancient times in the Ferentillo area comes from a 17th century altar painting. preserved in the Church of Santa Maria, where next to the Immaculate Conception there are depicted three trees including a citrus plant (see the images in the part relating to the photographic documentation). Despite these ancient historical references, the origins and presence of this species in the Terni-Amerino area remain unclear. In this regard, it is possible to advance only a few hypotheses which must, however, be supported by evidence found in the sources in order to be confirmed. One of these hypotheses is based on the use of the Bitter Orange botanical species as rootstock for edible fruit varieties such as sweet orange, lemon, cedar which starting from the 15th-16th century began to spread in noble residences both to show off these rarity (especially in climates where their growth was severely hindered) and to be able to have fresh fruit for culinary uses. With the development of “limonaie” and the use of bitter orange as rootstock (notoriously more resistant to low temperatures) these species manage to settle in otherwise closed territorial areas. It is therefore not difficult to imagine how some bitter orange plants were able to spread through the dispersion of seedlings (fortuitous or deliberate) and then found a “natural” location in places with a milder climate. The presence of this species in the Terni and Amerino area is in fact more easily explained with two reasons: one of a biogeographical nature, the other of a cultural nature. The first (as already mentioned above) allows to account for the presence (and persistence) of specimens of bitter orange thanks to the particular microclimatic conditions that characterize part of the territory of this specific area of Umbria. The particular conformation of the mountain areas, which surround and protect open spaces and valleys oriented to the south, allow the survival of this as well as other thermophilic species (for example the prickly pear). A greater resistance to the cold winter typical of the species contributes to this, a characteristic which is still used today when it is used as rootstock for other citrus varieties. Traces of this possible path that could have led to the affirmation and diffusion in the Merangolo territory, comes from several documents written by the hand of Count Carlo Graziani who had his residence in Villa Graziani, near Papigno: “Adi 24 [Agosto 1833] I was in the Valley to rebuild the wall at the end of the Melangoli road and widen the road a few steps ahead …”. The other aspect mentioned, however, concerns other characters, more specifically linked to the anthropological sphere, which would explain the persistence of the species based on some valuable attributes recognized by local populations to these plants and their fruits. Being a fruit with a very strong and sour flavor, its gastronomic use has been associated with the preparation of some foods that in some way had to be “corrected” and balanced. Hence its use in the preparation of sausages (coppa, mazzafegati, fegatelli) or as an additional ingredient to bruschetta. This last element binds, at least in the Umbrian area, the presence of Merangolo to oil. In fact, during the research carried out on the territory, many accessions were found precisely in correspondence with oil mills, or places where these artifacts stood in historical times. A hypothesis of this association between Merangole and mills could be precisely that of the use of these fruits to correct the freshly milled oil, in the past characterized by decidedly different organoleptic notes from the current ones. In the publication that can be taken as a reference for the historical anthropological aspects that link the bitter orange to this portion of Umbria, “The eye admires and stays enchanted […]” by Dalla Ragione and Maccaglia (2012), various other uses of Merangole in the kitchen: among these the “cappon magro”, merangole filled with stale bread soaked in the juice of the fruit and cooked on the grill, both in the sweet version (with sugar and cinnamon) and in the salty version (salt and pepper ); or the use of Merangole in the preparation of the well-known “Viparo” amaro, a typical product of Terni. In any case, this area at a certain point is characterized by a real production of Merangole, as confirmed by the “Agricultural Statistics of the Municipality of Terni” of 1889, where reference is made to “19,000 citrus fruits, collected annually in the period 1879-1883 in the Municipality of Terni “. Another aspect of interest is linked to the presence of two forms of Merangole, distinguished according to their taste. In fact, oral sources recognize two distinct types within the population of specimens of this species scattered throughout the territory: the so-called “brusche”, characterized by a decidedly bitter taste and those called “half-flavored” with a decidedly sweeter taste (although never like that of real oranges). This circumstance is also confirmed by historical sources. Costanzo Felici, in his work “Of the salad and plants that in any way come for homo food” of 1565, he writes that: “Of these there are still large ones with very thick rind suitable for seasoning, small ones, and those with a lot of sauce and those with little sauce, or with sweet or brusque or medium flavor”. As also confirmed by preliminary molecular investigations conducted on 19 accessions of Merangole found in the area, a large group of these were genetically similar, while a small subgroup shows a certain difference in the genetic profile, compared to the loci tested. As mentioned above, the different reproduction techniques, including that by seed, may have induced the appearance of new genotypes, to the benefit of biodiversity within the population.
TYPICAL PRODUCTION AREA The distribution area of this species is quite wide, including the municipalities of Ferentillo, Amelia, Narni, Cesi, Otricoli, Calvi dell’Umbria, San Gemini and Terni. However, these are relatively few plants found in private gardens and gardens, in no case the object of active cultivation. The access described here (and registered in the Regional Register) is present with a single copy in the Municipality of Ferentillo at the Azienda Frantoio La Drupa. The local area recognized is that of the Municipalities of Ferentillo, Amelia, Narni, Cesi, Otricoli, Calvi dell’Umbria, San Gemini, Terni.
GASTRONOMIC USE Variety used to flavor other foods with parts of the juice and peel (olive oil). Traditionally it is also used for the preparation of some sausages, as well as to flavor bruschetta and flavor other dishes.