The Liquorice produced in Calabria of Southern Italy is renowned for being high quality. It is used both in confectionaries and even medicinally. As of 2011, Calabrian Liquorice was awarded Protected Designation of Origin (PDO).
The History and Characteristics of Liquorice
In ancient Chinese medical treaties, Glycyrrhiza or Liquorice (From Ancient Greek, glykýs = sweet, rhíza = root) was named as one of the 120 “noble” substances essential to maintaining internal balance and health, and was used in many medical compounds. Liquorice’s beneficial properties had been circulated through the centuries around the globe, and Liquorice eventually found its way to Italy. Today, Calabrian Liquorice (Italian: liquirizia calabrese) is known as the “Queen of Calabria”, in light of its potency and its inherent “noble” quality. It is perfectly balanced between sweet and bitter, and the highest quality roots growing hidden deep in the soil, growing spontaneously without human interaction or interference, growing only in the perfect climate and soil conditions, as difficult to please as any royal.
The properties of Calabrian Liquorice
There is incredible variety in liquorice roots. The roots prized most are grown in Spain and in Southern Italy, Calabria. Renowned for its exquisite balance between sweet and bitter, Liquirizia Calabrese is grown in sandy soil, and is a product of the long, dry summer and mild winters. Calabrian Liquorice can be utilised and enjoyed without any added sweeteners or artificial flavourings. The primary active compound within liquorice chemically speaking is known as glycyrrhizin, which does have adverse effects on the body’s mineral balance in large quantities. If over-consumed it can lead to liquid retention and high blood-pressure. However in the case of Calabrian Liquorice the glycyrrhizin content rarely exceeds 1% in the fresh root, 2% when fried, nor 3% in the liquorice extract. This low glycyrrhizin content along with being naturally low in sugar and in calories, makes Liquirizia Calabrese a popular and safe product for all and is the secret to its popularity. This being said, it is the glycyrrhizin content which gives liquorice its anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties, with medicinal uses such as treating ulcers, rheumatic disease, chronic liver disease, chronic hepatitis C and severe auto-immune diseases.
The high-quality, highly coveted Liquirizia Calabrese was granted the European PDO mark (Protected Designation of Origin) in 2011. It is grown in the following cities and communes in the Calabria region: Cosenza, Catanzaro, Vibo Valentia, Crotone and Reggio Calabria. While Calabrian liquorice accounts for 80% of sales in local markets, it makes up only 3 to 5% of sales across the rest of Italy, with 800 to 900 tonnes being sold. Every year in Italy, 25,000 tonnes of liquorice confectioneries are produced and 300,000 tonnes of liquorice root are processed, and of those a mere 7,000 tonnes on average are Italian grown (of which 85% are grown in Calabria). The remainder, however, is liquorice imported from China, Afghanistan, Tunisia and Pakistan.