The Land and its resources

Cilento and its resources – The resources of the earth such as wine, oil and cereals, an ideal triad that realizes their symbolic and social values. This is the Mediterranean value, that of the exchange between sea and land, of peoples and goods, of cultures and cultivations.

Nowadays, Cilento is a living and vital landscape that simultaneously preserves the traditional features that generated it, in the organization of the territory, the path plot, the cultivation structure, the settlement system, and the traditions.

(cit. Cilento National Park – The living landscape, Naples, Electa, 1998

The Cilento agri-food productions have their roots far, very far from today’s patterns that often turn into fleeting marketing operations. And this heritage is shown in productions with Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), Slow Food Presidia, and in many typical products, even linked to one village, as it is our tradition not only in Cilento, but in our whole country.

Olive trees and oil; olive trees that fill the Cilento landscape, olive trees on the hills and down to the sea, as in Pisciotta. Cilento PDO Olive Oil from Pisciotta, Rotondella, Frantoio, Salella, and Leccino varieties. A delicate, fruity, balanced oil. And quality producers grow, with modern mills for the best results in their final product.

The most common varieties are Aglianico and Fiano which grow here on clayey and calcareous soil, not volcanic as in other areas of Campania, and this connotes the wines with warmer, Mediterranean notes.

Wine and vines, with the oldest PDO, Castel San Lorenzo, today not the most representative, because established in a moment of scarce attention to native vines. Of great interest instead is the Cilento PDO which covers a large part of the Cilento area, involving 56 municipalities.

There is no shortage of interesting research and rediscoveries, in particular Aglianicone, the oldest native vine that begins to be produced not without difficulty and resistance from some producers, but which the birth and consolidation of a consortium is helping to overcome. Two other denominations should be mentioned, the Salerno PGI and Paestum PGI which together with the Cilento PDO have contributed to giving a recognized profile to these territory productions. Some companies export a large part of these wines to northern Europe and the United States, and many labels receive recognition from the main Italian and foreign guides. Vines mostly introduced by the Greeks, which today return to the sea to reach the best tables.

The biodiversity of this land finds in legumes a variety of productions featuring also some micro-areas with rare and high quality productions.

The Bean of Controne, a Slow Food Presidium, which is characterized by a high digestibility and a pearly shape that makes it fascinating even to the eye; the rare Bean Regina di Stio; the Bean of Mandia; the Chickpea of ​​Cicerale with which one of the main dishes of Cilento cuisine – the ‘lagane e ceci’ – is prepared; and more, the Black eye bean from Oliveto Citra; and the wild pea Maracuoccio di Lentiscosa.

A set of products with a long shelf life that used to be the food reserve of Cilento families.

Another plant marks the Cilento landscape – It is the fig, whose dried fruit has the denomination White fig of Cilento PDO. It is a millenary plant introduced by the Greeks. Fig drying is a centuries-old practice that only a few years ago involved all Cilento families and which today sees interesting and modern agricultural realities producing and promoting this product. Unique characteristics of sweetness and texture make it a specialty of rare and ancient goodness.

The land offers other products that thanks to the raw materials and human workmanship add value and tradition to Cilento cuisine, i.e. Cacioricotta above all, a Slow Food Presidium, but mainly a presidium of the table, a snow-white cheese ideal with fusilli, the fresh pasta ‘par excellence’. Unfortunately, restaurateurs often forget and do not always defend this product, favoring the taste of gastronomic conformity.

But the land is also sea, and from the sea come the anchovies. Cilento has a long tradition of seafood cuisine, yet anchovies are a world apart. They were, and still are preserved in salt, or prepared fresh crumbed or stuffed with eggs and cacioricotta. In Marina di Pisciotta, an ancient fishing method still resists, that of the “Menaica” net; a large mesh catches only the largest anchovies, letting the smaller fish pass through. Hence the Anchovies of Menaica, also a Slow Food Presidium, which are preserved in salt inside earthenware jars. They are the symbol of respectful, ethical fishing, an example to defend and spread.

 (Text and research by Antonio Prinzo – Translation from Italian by Adriano Donato)