Licorice: the black gold of Calabria


Tasted and loved all over the world, licorice also finds in Italy ideal soils on which to grow and develop all the properties that make it so appreciated. It happens in Calabria, especially along the Ionian coast, where about 80% of its national production is concentrated. In this area the earth provides all that is needed in terms of climate and soil composition so that the plant, belonging to the Papilionaceae family, acquires the right content of glycyrrhizin, the active ingredient that characterizes its juice. Suffice it to say that the Calabrian licorice is exported all over the world and is considered by many to be the best on the planet.


Known since ancient times, licorice was called Glycyrrhiza, a name of Greek etymology that meant plant from the sweet root. In Calabria the plant was always considered a source of wealth but, thanks to the intervention of the Duke of Corigliano, who in 1715 gave birth to the first factory dedicated to its production and transformation, it became a real element of economic development. During the eighteenth century there were numerous factories that arose in the territory of Sibartide especially in the municipalities of Rossano and Corigliano, still today the main centers of product transformation.


The most representative place of the production and processing of Calabrian licorice, is absolutely Rossano, which has a long history that has led it to be an important Byzantine center, so much so that even today it is often remembered as “La Bizantina“. Walking through its historic center means coming across numerous historical evidences that trace the salient epochs of the town.

The Roots


Calabrian Licorice obtained the local certification of origin (so called DOP certification) in 2011. The name “Liquirizia di Calabria” is a DOP and is reserved exclusively for fresh or dried licorice and its extract. This licorice, must come from the cultivation and from the spontaneous plant of Glychirrhiza glabra in the variety called in Calabrian dialect “Cordara” and must meet the conditions and requirements established by the production disciplinary.


To obtain an excellent licorice, today as in the past, the roots are triturated with the help of a special machine, thus obtaining a paste from which the juice is extracted which is boiled in large boilers until it has acquired a thick and solid consistency. Producers then proceed with polishing using violent jets of water vapor and cutting the product obtained in the desired shapes.


The success of this plant throughout history is due not only to the beneficial effects on the body linked to its consumption, but also to its intensely aromatic, sweet but at the same time bitter taste. A flavor that comes directly from its strong and very long roots, able to anchor itself firmly to the soil, even to those with a clayey composition. The roots penetrate deeply into the earth reaching over a meter in length, so much so that in antiquity it was believed that they reached as far as Hell.


Licorice is an excellent ally of the respiratory system and contains a precious active ingredient able to reduce cough stimuli and promote expectoration. Chewing its roots helps to digest and, according to many, even to stop smoking. Its properties have been known since ancient times and it is no coincidence, therefore, that in the course of history licorice has conquered illustrious admirers. It is said, in fact, that Napoleon used to consume it before battles to alleviate stomach pains, and that Casanova always kept a little licorice on his bedside table to relax between his conquests.


Traditionally licorice is used above all in the confectionery industry for the production of sweets, pastilles, syrups and herbal teas. Today licorice has become an increasingly used ingredient especially in haute cuisine whose exponents explore ever new flavors and combinations.



More and more recipe books and restaurants are available where you can try recipes of pasta dishes and desserts flavored with licorice but, in the Calabrian tradition par excellence, the tasty root is used for the preparation of an extremely aromatic liqueur with marked digestive properties. To obtain it, alcohol and sugar syrup must be added to the licorice juice, and let the mixture rest for about a month.

Annona, the bet of New Calabrian Farmers


Calabria wants to focus (also) on the exotic fruits and young farmers take the field.

The Annona Atemoya has a glossy skin rich in tapered but not pointed growths

In recent years, mainly due to climate change, alongside the crops that have always characterized the fruit and vegetable sector of the peninsula, crops of Annona are becoming increasingly popular that until recently were rather rare or even unknown.

According to a study by Coldiretti, its cultivar has gone from a few hectares planted with tropical fruits to over five hundred hectares, with an increase of sixty times in just five years. All thanks above all to the commitment of young farmers who have recovered abandoned land precisely because of climate change and have decided to meet new tastes and new eating habits for consumers.

Annona, variety “Hybrid”

And if in Sicily, among others, mangoes and avocados can be found, in Calabria it is the annona, a fruit originating in Central and South America, to spread over many areas cultivated in the Tyrrhenian area of Reggio Calabria. And it is precisely in the latter area, to be precise in Fiumara, in the province of Reggio Calabria, new farmers have decided to seize the opportunity.


The annona is a fruit originating in Central and South America

As already specified, being a fruit of tropical origin the ideal climate for the growth and maturation of the fruit is the Mediterranean one. However, after several attempts made in other regions of Southern Italy, it has been shown that only and exclusively in the the coast of Reggio Calabria finds the best habitat.

And as regards the characteristics of the soil, the fruit mainly requires medium-textured soils with a prevalent percentage of sand and silt.

Annona, variety “cherimola”

Belonging to the Annonaceae family, the annona is a fruit tree with an expanded and slow-growing habit that usually reaches four to six meters in height as an adult. It has slight branches of gray-brown color with elliptical, alternate, light green leaves.

The flowering starts in the spring immediately after the fall of the leaves and is scalar (until July-August). The flowers appear small, greenish-white and fragrant, usually hermaphrodite in groups of two / three.

It requires entomophilous fertilization through small insects, or pollination is carried out by small insects.

The fruit is mature when it is slightly soft to the touch and begins to show light brown streaks.

The fruit has a soft and creamy white-cream flesh with high sugar content, the presence of numerous seeds (variable depending on the species) and has a sudden ripening after harvest. The average weight of the annona is 210 grams (but it can also exceed 900 grams).

There are three cultivated varieties:

Annona cherimola or Cherimoya,

Atemoya – Geffner variety and to a lesser extent

– A local hybrid variety, which over the decades has gradually developed through the crossing of several other varieties.

While the Annona cherimola is the most valuable and is characterized by a green fruit with a homogeneous cordiform or conical shape, with a very thin skin and medium-depressed homogeneous areoles, the Atemoya – Geffner variety is a hybrid cultivar deriving from the Annona muricata or Annona squamosa and the Annona cherimola. Its peculiarity is that of having a shiny skin rich in slender but not pointed growths.

A delicious pulp

The taste is very different between the various species: the Annona cherimola has hints of banana, pineapple, pear, while the Atemoya has strong hints of milk. It should be said – specific Bellè – that the taste of this fruit is unique is difficult to assimilate to others.

As for the harvest, instead, for the Annona cherimola it is set between September 15th and December 15th, while for the Atemoya between January 1st and March 15th. The harvest is scrupulously done by hand, selecting only the fruits ready for consumption.

The plant is not subject to many pathogenic attacks, the most serious ones are referred to Glomerella and Phytophthora which mainly affect the fruits in juvenile phase causing rot or mummification. To fight them, it is necessary to eliminate immediately the infected parts and intervene with copper oxychloride.


The main gastronomic use is direct consumption of the pulp, with a small spoon. The fruit is deliciously sweety.

However, a rich jam, that is not a trivial aspect, can be made using freshly picked fruit.

But it’s not over here. Another well-played card by young farmers was to make themselves space in the world of ice cream making by participating, among many others, in SIGEP fair (International Gelato, Pastry, Bakery and Coffee) in Rimini in 2018. Yes, because ice cream to the taste Annona is already a reality both in numerous ice-cream parlors of Reggio that of the rest of Italy and Europe, albeit with still small numbers.

A spoon to eat an Atemoya – Geffner

Last but not least, the annona is not only sought after for its “enveloping and intense” flavor, but also for its nutraceutical capacity. It is rich in vitamins, proteins, minerals, but above all antioxidants.

In addition to having an energetic function, it improves the immune defenses, has an anti-age effect, protects from infectious agents, helps blood circulation, regulates intestinal functions, has relaxing effects and fights numerous diseases.