Vesuvian agriculture is to be considered unique in terms of variety of production and originality of flavors. The fertility of the volcanic soils, rich in minerals, the excellent drainage and the mildness of the Mediterranean climate, make the Vesuvian area a rich source of agricultural products of extraordinary typicality, from fruit and vegetables to wines. Large portions of the Vesuvian territory are characterized by the presence of vegetable gardens, vineyards, hazelnut groves and orchards, often on wide terraces, which give the Vesuvian area a very special physiognomy.
Famous are the orchards, especially of apricots, particularly adapted to Vesuvian soils and present with a wide range of varieties, all with very fine aromas, flavors and fragrances. The Vesuvian apricot is a product with the PGI protection mark. Among the best known cultivar are Pellecchiella, considered the best for its particularly sweet taste and the compactness of the flesh, and the smooth Boccuccia, with a sweet and sour taste.
The volcanic complex of Somma-Vesuvio is also famous for the deliciousness of its wines. At the foot of the volcano are cultivated Falanghina grapes, Coda di Volpe (also called Caprettone) and Piedirosso del Vesuvio, from which we get the famous Lacryma Christi DOC, a wine with an intense aroma and dry and aromatic flavor. It is vinified in the red, rosé and white varieties and can be considered DOC when it reaches 12° alcohol. The Catalanesca grape deserves a special mention, excellent table grapes for its fleshy and sugary pulp, which is grown locally mostly at the foot of Mount Somma. This vine was imported by Alfonso I of Aragon in the 15th century from Catalonia, the Spanish region to which it owes its name, to replace the “Greco” vine, destroyed on the entire slope of Mount Somma by a terrible attack of downy mildew. Even today it is possible to admire presses that date back to 1600. kept in the cells of the ancient farms. Since 2006 the vine has been officially added to the list of grapes suitable for wine-making.
Since ancient times, despite the imminent danger, the slopes of the volcano have always been inhabited. In Roman times, even the true nature of Vesuvius was ignored, and its fertility was appreciated. The testimonies of this ancient use of the territory are present in the paintings, mosaics and sculptures that are found in Pompeii, Herculaneum, Stabia and Oplonti: they show us aspects of the agricultural landscape of Vesuvius and the fruits that it produced. Tangible signs of the Vesuvian agricultural reality of that time are the plants of the vegetable gardens and orchards that have been returned to us by archaeological excavations and the carbonized remains of many plants of agricultural interest, now preserved in the Laboratory of Applied Research in Pompeii and in the Antiquarium of Boscoreale.
Pomodorino del Piennolo is a product with PDO protection mark. This tomato, small in size and round in shape, has a fleshy skin and a characteristic “lace” tip at the base. The taste is sweet-acidulous due to the particular concentration of sugars and minerals. It is preserved in bunches or shells of several kilograms called piennoli or spongilli, hung in ventilated and dry places, by means of a twisted hemp string in a circle. It is sold on the market either fresh or as a glass conserve, according to an ancient family recipe of the area, called “a pacchetelle”.