Apples, or “mele” in Italian, are a mild fruit to me. If food can have a character, apples have a mild one. Some of them are pretty good, flavorful, but their taste never strikes me. There is one exception to this, and it is the “Mela Annurca”. This apple has a strong character. It is a tasteful variety, with a characteristic lightly acidulous note that does catch attention. It is just great to clean up and refresh your mouth after a challenging meal. And it displays its temper also in another way: it requires a couple of weeks of hand care before it gives up her flavor. Let’s see how.
Let me say first that the Mela Annurca is typical from Campania, where it has been grown for at least 2000 years as some reference in Plinius writing at Pompeii times and some paintings in Ercolano houses seem to proof. It is the only apple variety typical from southern Italy. Since 2006 it is recognized and protected by European Union “IGP” mark. It does take a temper to have such a CV !
Regarding the hand care… this apple does not mature on its own on the tree. The farmer has to pick it up and lay on a bed of straw, called “pàsteno” in Neapolitan. Then, every day or so, the farmer has to slightly turn them one by one, by hand, to make them mature uniformly. After two weeks of such treatment the Mela Annurca becomes finally red, flavorful and ready for the table. The sight of the stripes of red apples on top of the light straw, framed by green and brown of the countryside is just beautiful.