A boom of Exotic fruits in Calabria


With climate change, the first Made in Italy mango and avocado crops come along with many other exotic consumer products, familiar such as bananas or lesser-known specialties such as black zapote (also said sapodilla).

This is what emerges from the first Coldiretti study, entitled “Italian Tropical Fruits” presented at the opening of the Coldiretti peasant village in Milan at Castello Sforzesco, from Piazza del Cannone to Piazza Castello, with the presence of over ten thousand farmers.



Here are the products grown on our land, Calabria! We have these Calabrian tropical crops:

  • Mango
  • Avocado
  • Passion Fruit
  • Thai Aubergine (Thai variant of our aubergine)
  • Macadamia (a dried fruit halfway between almond and hazelnut)

Further, the land of Calabria hosts even Sugar Cane, while the Annona, another fruit typical of the countries of South America is now widespread along the coasts so much that it is also used to produce jam.



That of the Made in Italy tropical fruit – underlines Coldiretti – is an exploded phenomenon due to the effects of overheating determined by climate changes and it is destined to profoundly change consumer behavior in the coming years, but also the productive choices of the same farms . This is demonstrated by the fact that cultivation has gone from a few hectares planted with tropical fruits to over 500 hectares with an increase of 60 times in just five years.

Passion Fruit

Nearby regions are in the same situation. In Sicily – explains Coldiretti – there are hectares and hectares cultivated with avocado and mango crops of different varieties, in the countryside between Messina, Etna and Acireale, but also with passion fruit, black zapote (similar to persimmon, of Mexican origin), and litchi, the small Chinese fruit that recalls the Muscat grape.


All thanks to the commitment of young farmers – recalls Coldiretti – who have chosen this type of cultivation, often recovering and revitalizing abandoned lands precisely because of climate changes, previously destined for the production of oranges and lemons.

Thai Eggplant

A market segment that is growing dramatically, considering that over six Italians out of 10 (61%) would buy bananas, mangos, Italian avocados, if they had them available instead of foreign ones, according to a Coldiretti survey released for the occasion.

71% of citizens would also be willing to pay more for the guarantee of the national origin of the tropical. A choice motivated by the greater degree of freshness but also by the fact that Italy – specifies Coldiretti – is at the top of world food security with the lowest number of food products with irregular chemical residues (0.8%), lower than 1, 6 times the European Union average (1.3%) and 7 times that of non-EU countries (5.5%).

Sugar Cane

Conclusively, the phenomenon of exotic Italian fruit, driven by the commitment of so many young farmers, is an example of the innovation capacity of Italian agricultural companies in the fruit and vegetable sector. This sector too often is however hampered by an organizational, infrastructural and diplomatic delay that has prevented the Italy to engage the recovery in demand abroad, with a collapse in fresh fruit and vegetables exported in 2018 of 11% in quantity and 7% in value, compared to the previous year.

President of Coldiretti Ettore Prandini underlined, therefore, the need to guarantee “efficient transport on the railway line and airport hubs for goods that allow us to bring our products quickly from north to south of the country and then to every corner of Europe and the world“.

The Calabrian Caviar: the “Sardella” or “Rosamarina”


There is a goodness inside Calabrian cuisine, the so-called “Sardella” or “Rosamarina”, it comes from a cream of pilchard, a mixture of newborn fish, which in local dialect is the “nunnata” (namely a newborn fish).

Even if the ‘nduja (a very spicy cream of salami) is the identifying product of Calabria, especially abroad, we could consider this cream of pilchard as the sister of the famous salami’s cream, but in a fish version.

The names of this caviar of newborn fish can vary, indeed this is called “rosamarina” on the Tyrrhenian Sea, while on the Ionic coast it is called “sardella”.

A fixed couple: Tropea onion + Sardella


It is mostly certain that that the pilchard is a revisitation of the ancient “Garum” of which the ancient Romans were delighted. This was a fish-based sauce, but less refined than the version made in Calabrian homes.

– The Garum is mentioned 20 times by Marcus Gavius Apicius (in his famous cookbook “De re coquinaria”), who was a Roman gourmet and lover of luxury, who lived sometime in the 1st century AD, during the reign of Tiberius.

Pliny the Elder in Naturalis historia (XXXI, 93 ff.) said that the best garum was the garum sociorum, made with mackerel and coming from Spain, produced by a Tunisian society of Phoenician origin, which it exported mainly to Italy. This was expensive as a perfume. There were also famous garum factories in Italy, Campania, Pompeii, Clazomene and Leptis Magna.

Soft bread (pitta) with sardella

Seneca in a letter to Lucilius (Epistulae ad Lucilium, XV, 95, 25), launching his arrows against food excesses, especially against the garum: “illud sociorum garum, pretiosam malorum piscium saniem, non credis urere salsa tabe praecordia?” (“And that sauce that comes from the provinces – is the garum sociorum of which also Pliny spoke – an expensive mess of dead fish, don’t you think that you burn your guts with its spicy rot?”).

– Describing the dinner offered by Trimalcyon in Satyricon (36, 3), Petronius describes in great detail a huge tray, in the center of which a hare in imitation of Pegasus prevails, and at the corners four statuettes of Marsyas, from whose garnets flow garum sauce and pepper on a fish placed in a canaletto supported in such a way as to seem alive and to swim in the sea.

– Finally, Martial – in Epigrammata (XI, 27, 2) – he praises a friend of his called “Flaccus” who can resist the smell emanating from a girl who drank six measures of garum. Further, in the epigram III, 77, 5 he criticizes the use of “putris allec” (putrid herring) in dishes.

Conclusively, this quick list of historical testimonies speaks a lot about our sardella, like a fantastic legacy of ancient gastronomy and returns with a pinch of nostalgia a precious tradition.

Sardella rustic puff pastries


The Calabrian sardella is a delicious heritage of Mediterranean cuisine, but it is cheap and good.

Instead, the garum derived from the entrails of the fish which were treated together with a large quantity of salt (indeed, the mixture was macerated in the sun for long periods, releasing the liquamen, very similar to the current anchovy sauce) and it was expensive. Garum was a product for rich families who could afford the product by paying considerable sums, and it was used as a condiment.


The main problem for the preparation of sardella, this wonderful fish cream, is to find the raw material, that is the juvenile sardines. Their fishing is regulated by very strict laws and can only be carried out between January and March, giving exception to the article 15 of the European CE 1967/2006 regulation, which prohibits this fishing.

Therefore, a good substitute is on sale, easily available: the so called ice-fish that is found, defrosted, in the fish market or, frozen, in the supermarkets. However, it is not suitable for the preparation of our sardella of pilchard, that obviously needs newborn anchovies or sardines, and has a color tending to gray as opposed to ice-fish, that is white.



  • 1 kg of newborn pilchrad
  • 50 grams (minimum) of ground hot pepper
  • Dry wild fennel

If you want, you can add sweet ground chilli.


  1. Wash the newborn fish well until the water is clean.
  2. Put the fish in a container with salt and put a weight on the cap.
  3. Squeeze the fish sauce and season with the red pepper and wild fennel.
  4. Homogenize and place in glass jars with a layer of olive oil.


The pilchard can be eaten purely on the bread or it can be used to flavor pasta. It is also excellent with eggs, as an omelette, or on a fried egg. Good in potato boats or in the typical “pitta”, a soft bread.

Puff pastry rustic, full of Sardella


Sardella is a versatile product. The only care is eating it in small quantity because it is particularly spicy.

Crucoli (KR) is the town of this Sardella, but also Cirò Marina (KR), Cariati (CS) and Trebisacce (CS) claim paternity. Crucoli promotes this typical product with a festival that takes place continuously in the historic center since 1970, every second Sunday in August.

It is protected as Traditional Italian Agri-food Product (so called PAT). The Pat are products included in a special list, established by the Ministry of Agricultural, Food, Forestry and Tourism Policies with the collaboration of the Regions.

Considering that the ban on fishing may make it lose its production, consumption and tradition, if you come to Calabria it would be a shame not to try it!