Cipollotto Nocerino DOP covers the spring onion of the species Allium Cepa L., an herbaceous plant with a biennial growing cycle. The product released for consumption must have the following characteristics:
- flavour: slightly sweet, not at all sharp, distinctive and aromatic;
- shape: cylindrical, slightly thicker at the base;
- colour: internal and external layers entirely white;
- size of bulb: between 1 and 5 cm;
- moisture content: over 92 %;
- colour: deep green-blue with glaucescence;
- shape: linear, fistulous, cylindrical, pointed.
To be placed on the market, the ‘Cipollotto’ must be sound, whole, clean, free of any visible foreign matter, free from damage, without hollow stems, free of parasites, free of abnormal external moisture, free from foreign smell and/or taste, free of externally visible shoots, free from swelling caused by abnormal development, firm and compact. The onion may or may not have the root tufts and the leaves may be whole or cut to various lengths.
Geographical area: ‘Cipollotto Nocerino’ is grown throughout the basin of the Sarno Valley in the territory of Agro Nocerino in the Province of Salerno and the South-Western part of the Province of Naples.
Proof of origin: Every phase of production is monitored, in each case documenting the inputs and outputs. In this way, and through registration of producers, plots of cultivation land and packers on special lists maintained by the inspection body, the traceability of the product (from one end of the production chain to the other in both directions) is guaranteed. All persons, both individuals and legal entities, on the relevant lists will be regulated by the inspection body as established in the product specification and the relevant inspection plan. Whenever the inspection body establishes non-conformity, even if it is only in one phase of the production chain, the product may not be sold under the Cipollotto Nocerino DOP.
Method of production: The product specification lays down, among other things, that Cipollotto must be field-grown. The ground is ploughed to a depth of not more than 40 cm and then turned with a rotavator to prepare it for sowing. The maximum planting density is 200 plants/m2 and the planting layout provides for 20-35 cm between rows and 10-15 cm between plants. The seed used is produced exclusively from bulbs grown and selected in the geographical area. The seed may be grown throughout the year in seedbeds or sown directly in the field.
The seedlings are transplanted when they have reached a height of 14-16 cm. Irrigation is tailored to seasonal weather conditions: during summer, the plants are irrigated 3-4 times a week. Also required are fertilisation on planting and again when the plants begin to show signs of growth and destruction of weeds using pre-emergence herbicides pre- and post-sowing or pre- and post-transplanting.
Production and packaging must take place in the defined area to guarantee quality, traceability and control.
To avoid subsequent damage involving a reduction in the saleable quantities of the product, and above all affecting the quality of the whole batch, it is vital to perform these operations in a short space of time, when the bulb still has all its cell turgor: this is the only way the bulbs can be peeled when they are in the most suitable physiological conditions and the best possible results can be achieved. To demonstrate the importance of carrying out all the preparation and packaging at the place of production and in a short space of time, it should be stressed that the Cipollotto Nocerino is eaten raw and the key characteristics which make it such a unique, premium product (scent, brightness, delicate texture, juiciness, crunchiness, firmness) would be irretrievably compromised by any additional handling and/or transfer to another site.
Link: There is evidence of onion growing in the Sarno Basin more than 2 000 years ago: in ancient Pompeii onions are shown in paintings in the House of the Sarnus Lararium, the shrine of the Lares, the protectors of the house. Historical sources show that in the Middle Ages ‘Cipollotto’ was marketed along with oranges, lemons and chestnuts. Its use was advised in the famous School of Medicine in Salerno, the Hippocratica Civitas. At the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries, onions were listed and described in the agronomy manuals and catalogues of the principal seed producers. Since then, the cultivation of silver skin onions has held an important place in local agriculture.
The particular soil and climatic conditions prevailing in the whole area has favoured the production of ‘Cipollotto’ in the Sarno Valley down the centuries. The origin, development and present structure of the soil make it the ideal substrate for the ‘Cipollotto’, which grows well in light, humic, cool, well-drained soil without standing water. Volcanic activity in the neighbouring areas has influenced the geolithological formation of the Sarno Valley, the numerous eruptions of Vesuvius causing the stratification and influencing the physico-chemical properties of the soil. Vesuvius has regularly showered the area with ash, minerals and lapilli, which have enriched the soil with nutrients and created a natural and efficient drainage system.
Another feature of the local growing conditions are the photoperiods: the favourable even spread of sunlight and darkness makes the area even better suited to growing liliaceae with fast-growing bulbs, as it encourages a balanced growth of the aerial parts (stem, etc.) and subterranean parts of the plant, a particularity which — together with other factors — helps to form the plants' organoleptic and morphological characteristics, as well as contributing to the natural whitening of the bulbs.
The mild climate, typical of the central Mediterranean, is favoured by the area's orography, with the Monti Picentini, Monti Lattari and Vesuvius providing protection from winds from the North-East through to the West, creating ideal, temperate conditions, without excessive heat, throughout the year.
In addition to these environmental factors is the human factor: the centuries-long experience of local farmers who, with their totally manual production techniques (transplanting by hand, peeling bulbs, reproduction of seed), are proof of how close a link there is between product, grower and locality and of the extent to which this combination confers on the product those characteristics that make it unique and give it its undoubted reputation.
Reference: The European Commission