Did you know that the delicious root plant liquorice is a legume? It comes from the bean family. They say that Calabrian liquorice is unique thanks to the rich soil in Calabria and the climate. Another Ancient Calabrian delight that has existed since the arrival of the Ancient Greeks in Calabria. This deep-rooted plant never dies; it might lose its flowers or foliage but its roots will live on for centuries.
How to grow this delicious root plant
If you decide to grow liquorice, you need to be very patient, it can take up to 3 years before you can dig up the roots. However, you will be rewarded for your patience as you too can possess one of those magical plants. Read more here about growing liquorice. It’s important that you keep the plant in a sunny spot. It does not require a lot of water, I suppose that’s why it grows wild all over Calabria, especially in Sibari and Rossano. These plants can grow up to 2 metres tall and prefer coastal areas.
Calabrian farmers dig them up every 3 years in autumn. They look like little twigs. Once I saw a Calabrian man chewing on a stick, he told me that it was no ordinary stick. I stood there completely baffled wondering what pleasure he would get from chewing on a twig. He then explained that this was a liquorice-flavoured one. I couldn’t believe it. I had never seen liquorice in the form of a twig before.
Calabrian liquorice is unique
I remember eating it as a child. In fact, It was my favourite childhood sweet. They were the liquorice wheels either in the colour red or black. The Calabrian man told me that he chewed on the twig as it was good for his teeth. In fact, the Ancient Greeks cleaned their teeth with them. I might start chewing on them more often. Anyway, there are numerous liquorice making factories in Calabria.
The liquorice we know is exactly the same as the one in Calabria, but not as sweet, but still incredibly delicious. They collect the root plants in autumn and leave them to dry out in the sun. Once dried, they start the boiling process.
Two magical ingredients; water and the liquorice root plant. That’s it. Nothing else. Calabria’s secret, 100% natural. The high temperature turns the mixture into a gummy texture. It almost looks black but they say the real Calabrian liquorice has an intense dark brown colour. They place the mixture onto a machine that shapes it like spaghetti and cuts it into small pieces.
Delicious Calabrian liquorice products
They then put these delicious pieces of liquorice into glass jars or small tins and ship them all over the world. At least 70% of its production is exported. Calabria is famous for having the best liquorice in the world. You can also use liquorice in a powder-form, this type is best used in cooking and put in many recipes such as risotto and other dishes. They make this liquorice into Jam, pasta, ice cream and that wonderful delicious liqueur.
All you have to do to make this exquisite delight is add pure alcohol and sugar to these liquorice pieces. Why is everything so easy in southern Italy? Just a few simple ingredients and you have something extremely tasty. You should drink this liqueur straight from the freezer in limoncello glasses.
Although, it has its health benefits such as soothing a cough, helping the digestive system and aiding other illnesses, we must eat it in moderation. The experts say no more than 100 mg per day.
The liquorice museum in Calabria
The Amarelli family in Rossano in Calabria has been making liquorice since 1731 and it is possible to visit their factory which has an interesting museum where you can learn all about this delicious sweet-making process and taste different products made with this special ingredient. You do not physically need to visit it unless you are in Calabria. You can see it in the video above.
They are also famous for their unique packaging. Small tins which resemble the old fashioned pill boxes which contain these wonderful liquorice pieces and different liquorice flavoured sweets. I like the colours and graphics on the tin.
Special Amarelli tins with liquorice
You can buy them directly from the factory here. (Free shipping). Some people buy them just to have one of these special tins. They last for years and years. I know some Italians in Scotland who have these tins in their cabinet display. You can see the tins in the above video of the museum.
Calabria is full of hidden delights. You will find an array of agricultural products in Calabria. You can read about the fig trees here and wonderful chilli peppers. Another special ingredient unique to Calabria. Which is your special ingredient of Calabria? Please share it with us in the comments below.