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, 2014). 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 Pallante. The latter is described as follows: “with ovate lanceolate leaves, somewhat heart-shaped and unequal at the base, green also below, with small and stranded teeth, with stranded mucron and mushroom: chestnuts 29 mm high, 31 mm long and 20 wide, with a large and hairy hilum around: from Ascoli Piceno “. An extensive and detailed study on the best Italian chestnut varieties (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).
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), bringing the number of varietal entities. Pallante is defined as “a variety considered of little value, prevalent mainly in the Acquasantano and in the Montegallo 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 the “Marrone della Laga” and the Sibillini Mountains “. 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 Marrone variety is admitted which includes cultivars (defined 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 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 productive incidence of the cultivars would be: Classic brown & gt; 50%, Wrinkled brown 20%, Gentle brown 10%, Chestnut N’zita 3-5%, Pallante Chestnut 1% . The presence of Pallante is located almost exclusively in the area of the hamlets of Pozza and Umito in the 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 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 medium size with globular crown due to a wide branching of the trunk in the main branches. Characteristic of this tree is to have “crooked” branches.
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: 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: inconstant number of curls per inflorescence. 2-3 globular achenes inside the hedgehog. High to medium pubescence of the torch. Wide hilarious scar but smaller than N’zita. Small to medium size (less than 10g to 10-15g).
FEATURES OF THE PULP: cream-colored pulp, with a mediocre flavor. Suitable for flour only.
PERICARP (or Perisperma): shiny dark brown color with darker smooth streaks on the back.
EPISPERM: thin integument adhering to the frequent incisions of the endosperm and therefore not easily removable.
ENDOCARP (or Endosperm): cream in color with frequent polyspermia (polyembryony) and presence of settlements.
PHENOLOGY: The latest of all local varieties with harvesting at the end of the season.
PRODUCTIVITY: medium (60-80 kg of chestnuts per adult plant in good condition.
SUSCEPTIBILITY OR RESISTANCE TO PHYTOPATHIES: high; greater than browns
PLANT ARCHITECTURE: Tree of second size with semi-rising habit and more twisted branching. The greyish bark has more or less deep cracks.
RESISTANCE TO ICE CREAM: It also bears fruit at higher altitudes (average about 800 m asl) and therefore has a higher resistance than other local cultivars.
AREA OF USE: not very common only in the municipality of Acquasanta (Pozza and Umito). It constitutes approximately 0.5-1% of the cultivated material. Gradually decreasing due to competition from chestnuts but not at risk of extinction.
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 a mediocre quality cultivar used mainly for the production of flour and in chestnut groves at higher and less productive altitudes.
Due to the lower organoleptic value and the low productivity due it does not have a particular gastronomic value. A provincial association of chestnut growers had been set up especially for the enhancement of brown no longer active.