Febronia Franca Vespa (in the photo) and husband Carmelo Di Salvo inherited their passion for cultivation thanks to their families' blood orange growing tradition and founded Azienda Agricola Vespa.
Their oranges, which hold the PGI mark, are cultivated in the area between Palagonia, Lentini and Mineo.
"Our parents, and our grandparents before them, had the courage to plant citrus groves where there was no water. They had to dig wells by hand. They took their chances with an apparently arid yet very fertile land to grow amazing fruit. The experience they passed down to us created a connection between tradition and innovation that is at the base of our Febronia marmalade."
"I wanted to diversify our range and started processing Tarocco oranges. One of the essential traits of our work is the fact that we employ production methods that are compatible with the environment. We introduce useful insects that act against harmful ones; irrigation water is controlled with periodic lab tests and manual pruning enables a better ventilation of the fruit, which also gets more sunlight."
The company manufactures products made with selected high-quality Tarocco oranges. Crop operations and manual harvesting carried out at the ideal ripening stage contributes to improving the organoleptic qualities of the fruit.
Marmalade is cooked at not-too-high temperatures to leave the mineral part of the fruit alive. It is preservative and colouring free and made with a good management of fruit chemical components to leave the freshness, aroma and flavour of raw materials unaltered.
"We want to promote the flavour and quality of our fruit, even outside the production season. We use artisanal processing techniques and, as for all other niche products, our consumers are those who are informed about typical local products and appreciate non-industrial produce. The fact that we employ healthy agricultural techniques means our raw material is excellent, so no preservatives or colourings are needed. The only ingredients are oranges and sugar, with a fruit content of over 70%."
Prospects for 2017
"A greater quality and flavour variety is expected in 2017, as volumes are expected to be lower due to the higher temperatures. We will have to widen our range with other products."
"The high temperatures led to many problems because they compromised blossoming and setting. Citrus fruit setting is determined by a series of elements that, combined together, affect the productive response of the plants. A delayed blossoming in October was one of the reasons behind the drop in volumes. As regards parasites, pruning helped us prevent infestation."
"The fresh produce stays in Italy, while processed products are appreciated abroad too. We produce 5 types of marmalade (orange, blood orange, tangerine, lemon and citrus fruit mix) sold to specialised shops, off-licences, delicatessens, hotels, restaurants and H&R."
"In south-eastern Sicily, Tarocco oranges are harvested from mid-December to between early April and early May."