Sprinkles of midday sun break through Mother Tree’s twisted limbs, warming her gnarled and knotted roots. Each knobbled stem stretches towards the earth, their fingers split and broken creating a complex labyrinth to collect every last drop of water from the dry Sicilian earth. Above, branches spiral outwards from her 16 meter thick waist and reach for the sun, while feathery leaves create a canopy of shade around her skirt. For over 1,000 years, this Biancolilla Centinara tree has stood her ground. Rooted into the steep hillsides of Alexandria di la Roca, she continues to look over the gleaming blue canvas of the sea below, birthing deeply nuanced olives and keeping the rare species alive.
Native to the Monti Sicani region of Sicily, the Biancolilla Centinara olive tree species was thought to be extinct until a team of researchers at the University of Palermo, including our Chief Scientist and Master Botanist, Dr. Pasquale “Mimmo” Marino, rediscovered it. Self-pollinating and quick to produce fruit, Mimmo recognized the importance of this varietal and carefully nurtured the species to once again thrive in the soils of its heritage. Producing balanced olive oils with powerful bitterness and pungency, we now have over 5,000 of these olive trees thriving on La Furtuna Estate. Bona Furtuna also donated 321 Biancolilla Cenitinara trees in 2021 to help continue to support the revitalization of this ancient and beloved varietal in our region.
In tandem with the rare Biancolilla Centinara olive trees, our olive groves are also home to Passulunara olive trees. Exclusive to Sicily’s Monti Sicani region, Passulunara olive trees have grown in the foothills of Monti Sicani for over 300 years. Producing soft, herbal, and sweet olive oils, the fruits grown from these beautiful trees are also incredible as eating olives. With over 20 trees now growing on our estate today, our single-varietal Passulunara Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the only one of its kind on the market.
In addition to producing delicious and delicate fruits, Passulunara trees can absorb up to 55 lbs of carbon from the atmosphere each year once they reach maturity. Nursing these trees from the brink of extinction, we’ve been able to donate trees in partnership with Slow Food Monti Sicani to help continue to invigorate this incredible species of olive trees.
Through Mimmo’s dedication to revitalizing these heirloom species in order to preserve and protect Sicily’s heritage and the diversity of its ecology, we’ve been able to donate over 2,000 Passulunara trees to different municipalities in our community with the help of Slow Food Monti Sicani. We’re honored to have our Heritage Blend, Passulunara, and Biancolilla Centinara Olive Oil Slow Food Presidia Certified as a result of Mimmo’s hard work. The Slow Food Presidium aims to protect heirloom varieties on the brink of extinction, signifying a commitment to the preservation of these precious traditional food products and their impact on community, ecology, and cultural heritage.
Through the weathered bark that protects her, you can feel her wisdom and see her resilience. Each bump a scar, and every hole a memory, Mother Tree helps us connect to our heritage and be grateful to our traditions. While the world has changed dramatically throughout her lifetime, her immediate environment has stayed relatively unchanged. The natural spring waters still cascade down from Monti Sicani, the bees still hum in the warmth as they carefully collect their harvest, and the careful cohabitation of man and plant still endures in her home. Our job is to make it do so.