Sedano Bianco di Sperlonga (Sperlonga celery)
Description: The IGP ‘Sedano bianco di Sperlonga’ is an Italian celery reserved exclusively for the Sperlonga celery ecotype of the variety Apium graveolens L. var dulce Mill, ‘Bianco di Sperlonga’ ecotype, with white or whitish sides. The characteristic light colour is an intrinsic element of the ecotype, which may be intensified by a denser planting pattern. When released for consumption, ‘Sedano bianco di Sperlonga’ IGP must conform to the following specific characteristics of the locale ‘Bianco di Sperlonga’ ecotype: plant of average height, compact in form, with 10-15 light green leaves; the stalks are white with a light-green tinge, not very fibrous, characterised by barely-visible ridges. Weight varies according to size: medium size, from 500 to 800 g; large size, more than 800 g. Its flavour is mild and only moderately aromatic, which makes it particularly well-suited to being eaten raw. Furthermore, ‘Sedano bianco di Sperlonga’ has a total organic acid content of not less than 135 mg/100 g, breaking strength not less than 20 N and a total sugar content of not less than 13 mg/g.
Geographical area: ‘Sedano Bianco di Sperlonga’ IGP must be grown within the territory of the municipalities of Fondi and of Sperlonga.
Proof of origin: Each stage in the production process is monitored, with all inputs and outputs recorded. This, along with the compilation of specific registers — managed by the inspection body — of the land registry parcels in which cultivation, producers and packagers are located, and timely declaration to the inspection body of the quantities produced ensures product traceability throughout the production chain. All natural and legal persons recorded in the appropriate lists are subject to checks by the inspection body, in accordance with the corresponding monitoring plan.
Method of production: Planting must take place from July. Seeds, either in their natural state or coated, can be sown (scattered) in boxes or tray fillers. Light is essential for the seed to grow. Seed production, using phenotype selection (that is to say by obtaining seeds from the best plants) is carried out at farms and/or nurseries in the production area. The seed from such farms and/or nurseries may be made available to other producers or nurseries in the production area, which then see to the production of seedlings. The seedlings produced by nurseries must be returned or made available to farms in the production area. Seed produced by individual local farms located within the area referred to above must be as entered in the voluntary regional register for the protection of biodiversity in agriculture.
Seedlings must be planted out when they reach a height of approximately 10-15 cm. The planting pattern is 25-35 cm between rows and at intervals of 25-35 cm within the row, with an optimal distribution of 10-12 plants/m2. Maximum permissible density is of 14 plants/m2. The ‘Sedano Bianco di Sperlonga’ is watered by irrigation. Both sprinkler and micro-irrigation systems are acceptable. The approach to fertilising celery must be informed by the rotation of crops for the whole year. In particular, the total amount of nitrogen added in any one year must not exceed 155 kg/ha. Pest control must be carried out using an integrated system in order to keep to the minimum or eliminate any pest control residues on the celery.
‘Sedano Bianco di Sperlonga’ is harvested by hand, by cutting the plant below the root collar. The plants must be laid in the container, avoiding any friction between them which could result in broken tissue and leakage of cell fluids. Furthermore, the time during which the product is left in the sun after harvest should be as short as possible. ‘Sedano Bianco di Sperlonga’ should be grown and prepared in the area mentioned above, in order not to impair the quality of the product and in order to ensure its traceability and monitoring.
Link: ‘Sedano Bianco di Sperlonga’ was introduced into the Fondi and Sperlonga area around the 1960s. Cultivation of the crop in the area mentioned above, is attested to by a mass of tax documents dating from the early 1960s to the present day, when ‘Sedano Bianco di Sperlonga’, after an initial introduction phase, rapidly gained commercial value and popularity among consumers on the markets in Rome. The area of production of ‘Sedano Bianco di Sperlonga’ is characterised by a climate and soil which very much favours the growing of celery. The soil is part calcareous Mesozoic and part silty-calcareous alluvial soil. Typical of the production area is the presence of land where the water table is almost at the surface lying between the drained area and the sea. It is on this land, referred to as ‘mudflats’, or marshes, that the growing of celery developed, at first in the open and subsequently under shelter. Indeed, the soils are characterised by a circulating solution with a high degree of salinity which, together with all the other particular climatic conditions, confer on the ‘Sedano bianco di Sperlonga’ its distinctive organoleptic qualities, namely its flavour, the sweet and moderately aromatic taste, the organic acid content, the reduced breaking strength of the stalks and their characteristic light colour, which is an intrinsic feature of the ecotype.
The climate of the area covered by the IGP is temperate maritime characterised by: an average temperature of between 17 and 18 °C; average monthly temperature < 10 °C for 1-3 months, the average of the minimum for the coldest month being 6,9 °C; annual average rainfall of 727 and 1 133 mm, the summer rainfall being 61 to 83 mm. On the coast especially the climate is intensely dry from May to August. The soils and the climatic characteristics thus constitute the habitat of choice for the growing of ‘Sedano Bianco di Sperlonga’. In addition to the soil and climatic characteristics, there is the historic specialisation of the local farmers who not only have adopted techniques with a low impact on the environment but have also been able to exploit the typical marshy terrain, thus making it possible, thanks to being able to produce the seeds themselves by means of phenotype selection, to preserve the ‘Bianco di Sperlonga’ ecotype and ensure the safeguarding of the production techniques and the suitability of the cultivar.