"With 34 members and 400 hectares, we are the only Sicilian PO made up exclusively of prickly pear producers. Over the last five years, we have become a leading PO within the Sicilian fruit sector and definitely the leading prickly pear organisation on a national level," reports Francesco Grassenio, President of OP Ficodindia di San Cono.
The mission is to gather and sell the local production grown around San Cono (CT), which has been Sicily's leading prickly pear production center for decades.
"This year, production is abundant and of a good quality thanks to the rain in spring, however the weather over the next 30 days will play a decisive role before the start of the campaign around August 10th."
"Competition is rather limited, as it only comes from the Etna area which is characterized by high temperatures in summer, meaning it has to source fruit from San Cono producers."
Actually, the two areas collaborate to produce fruit that is much appreciated by both the national and international markets.
Fruits are available as traditional or organic. Those that ripen in August are very tasty and consumers have learned to appreciate them preferring them to other seasonal fruit available on the market.
The varieties grown by OP Ficodindia di San Cono
Yellow or sulfarina prickly pears represent 80% of the production: ripe fruits are yellow-orange, very sweet with a soft texture and juicy.
Red or Sanguigna (15%): ripe fruits have a ruby red color and are appreciated for their sweet flavor and soft texture. It has a lot less seeds than other cultivars.
White or Muscaredda (5%): ripe fruits have a whiteish color, erroneously associated with being unripe. It is the most prestigious cultivar for its organoleptic qualities, texture and crunchiness.
Fruits are processed and packaged with eco-friendly methods in compliance with the strictest Italian and European GlobalGAP, GRASP and UNI-EN ISO 22005 standards.
Production is cultivated according to the Ficodindia DOP di San Cono specification. The experience producers have developed over 50 years and the constant attention towards technological innovations enable the commercialization of fruits with unique appearance and organoleptic qualities.
Spines are removed and fruits are graded so as to assure the highest safety, health and genuineness levels. Packaging solutions include 30x40 cardboard crates, cells between 12 and 20 fruits each, trays with or without lids etc.
"We aim at strengthening our commercial actions on the foreign markets because the growth in demand is driven by the unique healthy characteristics of this fruit. At the moment, the markets of reference are Germany, France, Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium."