Citrus cultivation developed in the Ribera valleys at the beginning of the nineteenth century, but it was only in 1930 that it reached truly high standards of quality.
This was when the cultivation of the Brasiliano and Washington navel varieties began, which gradually replaced the old acidic varieties with lots of seeds.
This specialisation continued to be further refined over the following decades by focussing on innovative production techniques. The establishment of the Ribera Orange Consortium in 1994 consolidated the cultivation of the orange in the region.
This association aimed to protect the Ribera Orange on the one hand, and preserve its quality while respecting nature on the other hand.
Since beginning its activities, the Consortium has undertaken initiatives aimed at innovation, scientific research and technological evolution, allowing the production levels to be increased in a very short time while still retaining and protecting the quality and naturalness of the oranges produced.
The last chapter in this complicated story came when the Protected Designation of Origin (DOP) recognition was granted by the European Community in February 2011.
This was the first time the status was given to a citrus fruit in either Italy or Europe, and it covers three types of varieties: Brasiliano, Washington Navel and Navelina.
With its specialisation and high quality, the Ribera citrus growing community represents the greatest area devoted to cultivating Navel type oranges.
The Ribera Orange is blonde and belongs to the Navel group. It has no seeds and is easy to peel, and also has a delicious crisp tastes and a high vitamin (C, A, B, PP), mineral salt and sugar content.
It is a natural source of a wealth of important substances for growth and a healthy diet.
When consumed as it is or in juice form, it constitutes a good source of vitamin C, a natural antioxidant that helps to strengthen the immune system.
The well-established cultivation technique used by the local workforce, developed through experience gained over the course of a century, has recently been enhanced with more refined management methods introduced into the area by regional technical assistance services.
These innovations have become widespread and have led to significant savings in terms of management, such as irrigation with a low pressure tubing system, which saves water and allows for more efficient scheduling, or the use of pneumatic pruning shears.
The introduction of these and other simple but effective innovations related to manual dexterity and experience is what makes agriculture in Ribera stand out, resulting in a unique and inimitable product.
Local traditions and cultures and innovative techniques are combined to achieve a superior quality product in an environmental context that is fortunately still healthy, where the plants are looked after and cared for individually with specific measures, as in the historical concept of the “Arab garden.”
The Ribera Orange can be sampled from November until May.
The Local Area
The Ribera Orange valleys (the Valley of the Hesperides) are well-defined ecological niches for the cultivation of the Ribera Orange and represent the best areas in the whole agricultural district.
The excellent features distinguishing features of the Ribera Orange are given by the optimal balance between the land, climate and quality of the water, combined with the skilled techniques of the citrus growers.
The area dedicated to the cultivation of the Ribera Orange, which covers a total of over 90,000 hectares, spans a vast geographical part of the western side of the province of Agrigento and a smaller part of the province of Palermo.
Situated in a very particular geographical and soil/climate context, this area represents a veritable “orange oasis” that is totally detached from the regional citrus cultivation framework.
The geographical area is characterised by the mildness of its climate, which is due to its proximity to the sea and the unique topography of the land, which is enclosed by the Sicani mountain chain to the north and a system of wide valleys that stretch out to the nearby coasts in varying directions.
This land system provides favourable climatic conditions for the cultivation of the Ribera Orange.
Now more than ever, quality, tradition and typicality are the requisites that link the Ribera Orange to the land and its social and economic context, to which it represents an opportunity for a new start and integrated development.
Curator — Consorzio di Tutela Arancia Ribera di Sicilia