Yesterday Isabella della Ragione's book, L'Occhio Ammira e Rimane Incantato, was presented in Terni.
Isabella Dalla Ragione has spent her career as an agronomist protecting rare fruit tree varietals, many that she and her father located and began to propagate with care. Together they dedicated their time to scouring the Italian countryside searching out these rare fruit trees and saved them from probable extinction. To accomplish this task Isabella has also used old documents and paintings and where a fruit tree is pictured she then sets out to find it and recover it.
The Merangola orange tree is one such fruit and the subject of Isabella's book L'Occhio Ammira e Rimane Incantato. In English: The Eye Admires and Remains Enchanted. The book is filled with gorgeous photographs, graphics and reproductions of artwork featuring the merangola orange.
The merangola ia a bitter orange originally from the Far East. In Italy it dates back to Roman times. The most famous merangolo tree is probably a tree in the courtyard of the Dominican convent in Santa Sabina in northern Lazio. This tree, thought to have been given to the convent in 1216, still bears fruit through the adjacent trees that have sprung from its roots.
Isabelle's book tells the story of the merangola from its first known beginnings. You'll see the fruit as it's pictured in art, learn how it was used historically and what the future of the plant is. Seeing the fruit through Isabella's eyes is a slice of history that adds to the richness of the plant itself. It's a beautiful fruit and quite true that your eye admires it and remains enchanted.
Isabella's farm, Archeologia Arborea, is located in Città di Castello near Perugia. It's full of hundreds of amazing fruit trees, many of which have been recovered and brought back to life by Isabella. A few of the peculiar fruit trees you will find at the Archeologia Arborea are the Pera Volpina (the Little Fox Pear), the Mela Muso di Bue (the Cow-Faced Apple), the Ciliegia Ocola (the Goose Cherry). Well worth a trip.
Isabella's book also features a few recipes. One that I like in particular is for bruschetta. I unfortunately don't have a Merangola orange tree, but the next best thing was an orange picked from a neighbor's tree.
Bruschetta alla Merangola
Slice eight pieces of country bread ½ inch thick
Toast until golden
Rub each slice with a garlic clove and then rub with the Merangola orange peel
Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and salt lightly
Optional: Drop a few drops of Merangola orange juice on each slice
What you end up with is an amazing, fresh twist to bruschetta. We had a hearty bean soup for dinner and it was a fabulous accompaniment.