Sicilian aromas

12 July 2023

Immersing oneself in the stories of producers who keep their local culture alive through the authentic fruits of the land they inhabit is always engaging. Cheese 2023 showcases cheeses, first and foremost, but we also look at other accompanying products such as honey, jams, vinegars, and natural charcuterie: all present in the large Market. Today, we tell you the story of Scyavuru, an agricultural farm in Sicily and exhibitor at the Cheese 2023 market. Their jewels? Organic fruit preserves. Among them, one fruit stands out for its rarity and persistent freshness, the highly fragrant Ribera and Sciacca wild strawberry, a Slow Food Presidium.

Scyavuru farm shares the flavors of Sicily: the gifts of the land, the climate and the breeze. Antonino Tornambé, one of the two partners, fought for the inclusion of the Sciacca ecotype in addition to Ribera in the Presidium. His intention was to give both strawberry varieties the recognition they deserve.

Everything began with a strawberry

Despite the challenges of the profession and the significant disparities between Northern and Southern Italy, the two partners, Rosario Tortorici and Antonino, also known as Nino, remain undeterred, and tirelessly promote the fruits of their land. As Antonino tells me, “Scyavuru was born in Sicily in 2005. The initial idea was to create a small workshop that was originally supposed to incorporate three agricultural companies belonging to me and my two brothers-in-law. However, over time, one of them withdrew for personal reasons, and we were left with two.”

Their first processing workshop was not supposed to have a primary role; everything was designed and set up solely for fruit production. “Then we noticed how widely appreciated the strawberries that grew at the foot of lemons, oranges, and peach trees were. So, we started a small productions of jams and offered them at local markets and fairs, even outside Sicily,” explains Nino. “At that time, the quantity of strawberries in our area was quite significant, so we considered the possibility of transforming this rare and delicate product,” he says.

From Sicily toe world

This strawberry, which would soon become a Presidium, gave the two partners of Scyavuru the opportunity to travel among the markets of Italy and get to know the reality of Slow Food. “For us, Slow Food was a very interesting and appealing platform for the ideals it upheld and with which we identified. At that time, the collaboration gave us numerous opportunities because, even though we had limited resources, Slow Food served as a springboard for us.”

After their debut at the Salone del Gusto, the Ribera and Sciacca strawberry made its appearance on the shelves of Eataly. Over the years, Scyavuru expanded its offerings, specializing in other products such as spreads, pesto, and Christmas products. Antonino tells me, “In addition to having an international sales network, thanks to our e-commerce channel, we sell 70% of our products in Italy.”

From the wild strawberry to other Sicilian Presidia

Scyavuru deserves credit for their efforts to introduce other local Presidia to the public, such as the Ciaculli mandarin, the Scillato apricot, the Alcamo purceddu melon, and the Castrofilippo paglina onion and the Giarratana onion.

“Our jams, preserves, and pestos are gourmet products through and through. I would say they are zero-mile products. We cultivate many of the raw materials ourselves, like oil, wild fennel, and Sicilian sun-dried tomatoes. Others, like the small onions, the Giarratana onion, and the paglina onion from Castrofilippo, which we use in our pestos, are grown by local partners. 70% of the raw materials are produced by us, and the rest comes from these other local producers with whom we have established strong connections.”

The Market

You can find Scyavuru among the exhbitors at the Market.

Nature works miracles

Nino told me that once they were defined as “a large pastry shop”: “At the time I didn’t take it badly, in fact to be honest I really like the idea of producing large quantities of products with local know-how. What we highlight is the attention to the quality of the raw materials.”

The result? Fragrant, flavorful products that are enjoying commercial success. But, as Nino points out: “This does not happen thanks to us: we are not alchemists, it is nature that works miracles, with the sun, temperatures.” Nino tells me that the higher the temperature swings, the more the peak of anthocyanins increases inside the the citrus fruits they harvest. This gives them a darker, redder color: one of nature’s small miracles.

The Sicilian genetic cocktail

But what about products from neighboring regions?

For Nino, the answer is simple: “We enhance non-Sicilian raw materials with our Arab-Norman culture and identity. This is a perspective I learned from Oscar Farinetti. When Oscar was still administrator of Eataly we were among the first to have entered the marketing of Italian products internationally. He used to say ‘we have to copy and improve.’ We are Sicilians, so we possess a genetic cocktail of all the peoples and cultures that have passed through this island, each one leaving its trace. The indigenous people who resided here, in the lands of Sicily, were the Sicani. The Greeks called them “bearers of gifts”: a meek, sociable, welcoming people. Foreigners who landed on this land were greeted with a set table. Even today, we Sicilians share our gifts with the world.”

And it is precisely this history of genetic, culinary and cultural heritage that has kept this company firmly rooted in its home territory. “Despite the fact that doing business in Southern Italy is markedly more difficult, since taxes are the same but revenues are not, we cannot and will not detach ourselves from what is our home, our history, our territory,” concludes the founding partner.

Scyavuru at Cheese 2023

“At Cheese we bring all our products. This is an appointment we don’t want to miss because Slow Food is an association that gave us so much when we were still taking our first steps,” concludes Nino. And we, for our part, can say that our relationships with all the producers in our network are always based on the principle of reciprocity that makes us interconnected, united by common goals and values.

by Cecilia Cacre, [email protected]

Cheese 2023 is organized by Slow Food and the City of Bra from September 15-18. See you there! #Cheese2023

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