FIOR DI MANDORLO
In the summer of 2019, an important milestone in the development of the project was Simona’s participation in the ReStartApp course, where she won second prize. “I got there with some clear ideas and had no intention of questioning them. However, the exchange with other participants and with consultants was crucial in helping me highlight the goals I aim to achieve and become more confident. Beyond the award, it was a constructive experience,” she says.
The desire to resume and optimise the production of almonds responds to an analysis of the Sicilian market. Since 1990, almond cultivation has more than halved, “also due to some measures undertaken in the framework of the Rural Development Plans which, over the years, have granted funding to farmers to change their crops, which has meant that we now find ourselves importing almonds from Spain and Canada”. This edible seed, however, is the basis of Sicilian cuisine, which is part of the reason why Simona sees it also as a learning tool: “Today, I cooked for you imagining a lunch at the farm, where I will be cooking with the children the products harvested from the fields. Fresh pasta with a tomato and almond pesto, bruschetta with Fior di Mandorlo olive oil and a ricotta and almond pâté, a pie made with cavoliceddi (wild cabbage) from the olive grove, and almond flour cookies. “As for grains and cheeses, we source and will continue to source our products from other organic farms in the area,” says Simona. The business is in the process of starting conversion procedures, although all their crops have always been grown using organic farming methods. “In those bottles, we keep salted sardines, which are used to attract and kill flies” explains Giuseppe, referring to the contents of the mineral water bottles hanging from each olive tree.
“When I’m in the fields picking olives, I also collect wildly-growing plants, which I then use to make the next day’s picnic lunch,” explains Simona. On the educational farm, she will teach children how to recognise and cook wildly-growing plants, like ‘cavoliceddi’ (Brassica fruticulosa), the wild cabbage that is typically found in Sicily, especially in olive groves and vineyards. It belongs to the family of Cruciferae and it is a vey hardy plant, but the excessive use of herbicides is placing it at risk of disappearing. In Fior di Mandorlo’s olive grove, however, aggressive chemical substances are not used.
Extra virgin olive oil is the only product that Fior di Mandorlo sells, from about 500 plants. More will be planted in Marineo. “We picked our olives between November and December,” says Giuseppe, who, in early February, is busy pruning. “This year our yield was 20%: for every hundred kilos of olives brought to the mill, we got 20 kilograms of oil.” Customers are private individuals and their olive oil is sold in three-litre cans. A label for the bottles has not been designed yet.