The orange blossom water is an official Slow Food product, which has been presented on Saturday, 23rd of May, in the municipality of Vallebona, in the Ligurian province of Imperia.
The mayor of Vallebona, Roberta Guglielmi, has narrated the history of the bitter orange trees, whose flowers are the main ingredient for the orange blossom water. The culture of the bitter orange in the area dates back to the end of 1700.
Vallebona is not distant from France and from the town of Grasse, with which it shared the tradition of producing essential oils and scented water used for cosmetics. Until the 1950s, the main revenue of Vallebona used to come from its colture of bitter orange trees, aromatic herbs, such as lavender, thyme, rosemary, and roses.
Vallebona was particular suitable for the culture of the bitter orange, because of the perfect exposure to the sun and shelter from the wind.
The white, scented flowers, called in the local dialect sciura de citrun or zagara, were picked at dawn from the month of April until the end of June, usually by young women, whose smaller hands were more apt for this delicate job.
Over the years, this tradition of Vallebona has faded away, because of frost seasons that have damaged the orange trees and the adoption of industrial chemicals for the production of artificial essences.
However, in 2004 this activity has been brought to light again, and in 2012 the orange blossom water has been recognised as a Slow Food product, as part of the project to sustain and protect local traditional products that are at risk of extinction.
The Slow Food project aims to expand the culture of bitter orange in Vallebona, getting more local farmers involved.
The orange blossom water is used to prepare essential oils, to give a special flavour to bugie, traditional Carnival sweets, and even as a medicine, to cure stomach-ache.