The slopes of the Cimini mountains, a few kilometres South of Viterbo, are the most important area of hazelnut production, covering over 33,000 hectares
In 2009 the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) “Tonda Gentile Romana” was awarded.
The whole area of the Vico caldera is the chosen site for growing Cimini Mountain hazelnuts belonging to the Tonda gentile romana variety PDO.
The soil in the hazelnut groves used to grow Roman hazelnuts is loose, cool, with a tendency to be acidic and rich in organic substances. The product is harvested from mid August through to mid November, using techniques that make it possible to guarantee the product’s quality.
Experts attribute a lower fat content to the round-shaped hazelnut grown in the Viterbo area compared to hazelnuts grown in the Middle-Eastern areas. Subspherical in shape, when tasted, the light and compact pulp reveals a delicate flavour typical of this variety.
In addition to providing good nutritional values, the non-saturated fats single out poor-quality nuts (because they are old, harvested late or incorrectly stored) and lend them a rancid mouldy taste.
The hazel’s presence in the Cimino and Sabatino areas, and especially the Tonda Gentile Romana variety, dates back to ancient times. It seems that the tree existed in an uncultivated state in the undergrowth prior to the Roman era. In Il Nocciuolo nella zona del Cimino (1949), Giuseppe Nizi tells how in Roman times hazel wood was burnt during sacrifices to the god Janus on Carbognano hill, and used for well-wishing torches during weddings.
The Tonda Gentile Romana hazelnut has found itself a good market from the start of the 20th century. Specifically it was and still is popular with the confectionery industry for the preparation of chocolate and traditional products such as tozzetti viterbesi (baked biscuits) and panpepato (a cake made with honey, nuts and candied fruit).
Only recently it has found some use in meat-based dishes such as baked rabbit with hazelnuts. In confectionery it can be used whole, chopped, ground or as a paste.
However, it finds its most complete use in confectionery where it is used to prepare nougat bars, nut brittle, gianduiotti, chocolate with hazelnuts, fillings for chocolates and sugared sweets, nougat sweets, caramelized sweets and typical spreads.
[from http://www.visitlazio.com ]