So much time and hard effort has gone to producing these exquisite treasures. Thinking back to my grandparents really makes me proud on what they have helped us achieve.
Redbelly Citrus has its roots set way back in Italy, Grandparents Vito Leonardo and Domenica Mancini along with Giuseppe and Lucia Barbagallo made the long journey to establish their new families in this wonderful country, Australia. With them, they brought their history long farming practices handed down from generation to generation.
Giuseppe, originating from Sicily in Italy, especially had a colourful kinship with the blood orange. Sicily has long been regarded as the sacred home of the blood orange, dwarfing any other producer in terms of quality and quantity, they attribute the rich and versatile soils created by volcanic activity of Mt Etna as well as the correct climatic conditions to make the perfect blood orange growing area, so much so that the European Union has granted areas in Sicily Protected Geographical area’s of production to protect the history and significance of the variety to the people’s of the land.
Giuseppe still remained in touch with his Sicilian ancestry whilst in Australia and continued his farming practices by not only commercially farming in Australia but also as a hobby maintaining mixed vegetable and fruits in his back yard during retirement. One of the founding directors of Redbelly Citrus, Vito Mancini, remembers his first encounter with a blood orange, “As a boy, I was always fond of my grandfathers back yard, walking in and around always excited me by seeing what vegetables were planted and what fruits were in season. What always amazed me was a tree grown in the chicken pen with three different Citrus varieties: a Lemon, Navel orange and a mysterious red fleshed orange that I never saw before, neither in our orchards or in the shops. Nonno(grandfather) told me distinctly that this fruit was the fruit of Sicily and they are the best orange that can be grown for taste and for health.” From this humble beginning, the seed of Redbelly was planted.
Some twenty years later, Redbelly Citrus came to life as family members of the original families that settled here in Australia came together to look at how to continue farming in Australia with varieties that they are passionate about. We all have a special spot for blood oranges, not only for history but the passion for creating new and interesting suggestions that blood oranges can be used in. Len Mancini remembers “When we originally decided to plant our orchards, we looked at some of the choices out there but none of them offered the excitement we craved. Nothing really allowed our passion for farming and creating specialised products for our customers. We always had in the back of our minds to build upon what our Grandfather started and Blood Orange was what we believed could continue his legacy as well as providing a product that the Australian marketplace craved.”
So building upon the knowledge and infrastructure first created by Vito Leonardo we set off to create what is now known as Redbelly Citrus. Brothers Leonard and Anthony Mancini as well as cousin Vito Mancini purchased property North of Griffith in the rich and fertile lands of the Riverina to develop their dreams of growing the perfect blood orange for Australia. “We looked for land that would help give the same characteristics as what is known to be the best growing area for blood oranges – Catania in Sicily” Anthony recall’s, “This work was helped both by our family knowledge and help from the NSW Department of Primary Industries who have spent a lot of time and resources in mapping Australia’s climate to the famous region in Italy that we have used to guarantee an impressive ability to produce the deepest and inspirational colour in our blood oranges.”
To date, we have had so many comments about the closeness we have reached to the real Italian blood orange that we have become proud in our achievements but not complacent. Redbelly Citrus is still aiming to achieve higher and higher, not only surpassing the quality of the Italian blood orange but also provide inspiration to all who use the product.
Along with the stride we take to create this level of sophistication in a product, we are also working on a number of accompaniments including Redbelly blood orange syrups, marmalade’s and juices which will surely delight the most demanding of palettes.