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If you visit a Sicilian pastry shop in November, you'll find a plethora of colorful miniature fruits lining the display cases. These colorful treats are Sicilian traditional marzipan fruits called Frutta Martorana. Here, we'll tell you a little about this fun Sicilian tradition and share some information about how this treat is made.
Like any great Italian dessert, there's a tall tale behind Frutta Martorana. Legend has it that the first Frutta Martorana were made at the Convent Martorana in Palermo, Sicily in the 12th century. Once upon a time, the archbishop was planning a visiting to the convent for Easter, and the nuns decided to pull a prank on him. They created hundreds of life-like fruits with marzipan and natural food colorings, hung the fruits from the trees in the gardens, and waited eagerly for the archbishop. When the archbishop saw the fruits, he was amazed by the bountiful harvest and complimented the nuns!
Ever since that faithful prank (pun intended!), frutta martorana have been a special part of Sicilian holiday celebrations for centuries. All Souls' Day in November and the Christmas season are especially popular times to enjoy this delicious treat.
Frutta Martorana are made from marzipan (called pasta reale in Italian). Pasta reale is made with a mixture of ground almonds, sugar, corn syrup, and lemon juice.
The marzipan is then shaped either by hand or by using molds made of plaster or wood. Once the shape is set and dried overnight, craftsmen and women paint the fruits carefully with diluted food coloring. After a day of drying, a light edible glaze is poured over the marzipan fruits, giving them their signature sheen.
Whether it's the holidays or a weekday, Frutta Martorana is a fun way to add a little color to your day. We recommend pairing Frutta Martorana with Candied Sicilian Orange Peels and a little dessert wine.