Deep red seeds with a rich, wine-like flavour. Harvested at their peak, our pomegranates are exceptionally high in sugar, with only a hint of tartness.
In Sicily, Dino’s bright pomegranate orchards stand out. He has several orchards across the island, from Marsala in the West to Noto in the South East, where the pomegranates hang heavy, at odds with the surrounding vineyards.
Originating from the Middle East, pomegranates were not commercially grown in Italy until 2010, when Dino formed a small collective of local farmers dedicated to innovative, high-quality agriculture. Dino couldn’t shake the feeling that the Sicilian climate, with its warm days and cool winter nights, would allow him to grow pomegranates on a large scale.
To create a sustainable business from a fruit that he had only seen growing in back gardens in Sicily, Dino was meticulous in his approach. He knew he would need to grow for flavour as well as for yield, so he worked closely with an Israeli-Italian grower to learn all he could about growing high-quality pomegranates before starting at home. He travelled to Israel to research seed varieties, soil composition, irrigation methods and supporting structures for the trees. As pomegranates trees do not bear fruit immediately, it took 3 years to confirm that he had made the right choices.
Now, Dino’s pomegranates do not leave any room for doubt. They are imposing in size and an unequivocal shade of pink. He chose to grow the ‘Wonderful’ variety which, given the right growing conditions, produce a large number of deep red seeds with a rich, wine-like flavour. The dense seeds and syrupy juice are heavy, resulting in pomegranates that can reach over a kilo in weight.
Broken branches can be a problem with fruit this large; the steel structures running through his orchard have been carefully engineered to withstand the weight of the pomegranates when they reach maturity. Dino explains that the metal wires between each tree also serve to let light in through the dense leaves, allowing for a fuller flavoured fruit. Immaculately dressed, he deftly works a jackknife across the top of a pomegranate to show us exactly what he means. The fruit is awkward to hold in the palm; it dwarfs his hands, staining his fingers pink as he slices through the pith. Inside, the dark seeds are rich and meaty, with a hint of tartness rather than an acrid tang.
Pomegranates cannot ripen after they have been picked, so harvesting them at their peak is crucial. Every year, Dino diligently checks the sucrose levels of his pomegranates with a refractometer. This November, in spite of high demand, Dino delayed the harvest date by a week to ensure the balance of acidity within each fruit was just right. It is through choices like these that Dino has become a peculiar source of celebration in Italy, acknowledged on national television for creating a new industry at home and a shift in the European fruit market. Even now that his unlikely orchards have found their place amid the Sicilian landscape, his discernment continues to flavour every fruit.