The rowan (Sorbus domestica L.) is a fruit tree species belonging to the Rosaceae family.
From a systematic point of view it belongs to the Eukaryota Domain, Kingdom Plantae, Spermathophyta Superdivision, Magnoliophyta Division, Magnoliopsida Class, Subclass Rosidae, Order Rosales, Family Rosaceae and then to the Genus Sorbus and to the S. Domestic Species.
The terms are synonymous: Cormus domestica (L.) Spach, Pyrus domestica and Pyrus sorbus Gaertn.
The term Sorbus comes from sorbus, the name of the rowan in Pliny and Columella, derived in its turn from sórbeo sorbire, perhaps referring to the ripe and soft fruit from which to sip the fermented juice. The specific domestic epithet refers to its ancient domestication.
Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
The rowan is a species native to Southern Europe; we find it from Spain to the Crimea and Asia Minor, often cultivated for the fruits even outside its range. In Italy it is found sporadically throughout the peninsula and in the islands, in the broad-leaved mountain woods and preferentially on calcareous soils; its preferential habitat is however in oak oak woods, from sea level up to 800 m altitude.
Sorbus domestica is an arboreal species that can reach 13 meters in height; it is very long-lived, with gray tomentose branches then glabrous, with an almost glabrous and viscous bud. The leaves are alternate imparipinnate, composed, up to 20 cm long, with 6-10 pairs of sessile oval or lanceolate leaflets, toothed at the margins, acute at the apex, above glauche and tomentose below. The flowers are hermaphroditic and numerous, collected in ramorous corimbi and tomentose; the chalice with five acute triangular lacinias; five-petal corollas, 5-7 mm, are roundish white; stams 20; 5 styles at the base. The fruit is a small knob of subglobose or piriform shape, 2 to 4 cm long, reddish-yellow and dotted, which then becomes brown when ripe; the pulp is sweet greenish, with a membranous endocarp and brownish half-seeds.
Of this species there are two varieties: one with pyriform fruits, more elongated (similar to small pears), and the other with maliform, rounder fruits (similar to small apples).
Sorbus domestica is a very cold-resistant plant with late blooms after the last frosts. The rowan is a rustic tree that resists different pests. It adapts to different soils and wants sun exposure. The Sorbo, is indicated for the biological cultivation and for the valorization of marginal zones. For the cultivation technique, the following sheet can be consulted.
Uses and Traditions –
The fruits of the rowan, commonly called “sorbole”, ripen in autumn and are much sought after by wildlife and especially by birds; they are edible, with a sour taste, rich in malic acid and vitamin C and, if they are amalgamated, they become sweet, with a soft powdery pulp.
It was already known at the time of the Romans who appreciated its tenderness and sweetness, especially in the preparation of liqueurs.
References to the rowan we find them in different authors, starting from Pliny who in his memorable work “Naturalis Historia”, described its physical and organoleptic characteristics: “Some are round like apples; some pears like pear, some ovate like some apples, they soon strengthen. The rounds are more odorous and more delicate than the others. The others have taste of wine “.
Virgilio talks about it in the “Georgiche” where the custom of fermenting this fruit with wheat is illustrated, obtaining the “cerevesia”, an alcoholic drink similar to cider.
Even Dante Alighieri, in a passage from the Divina Commedia, recalls this fruit: “And it is reason, because among the untamed sorbis, discontent yields to the sweet fig” (Inferno, canto XVI, 65).
The popular legends tell of the Sorba, that is, the berry in the shape of an apple or pear pulpy and brown-red, as a lucky charm against poverty and hunger and that, thanks to its warm and intense colors, has the magical power of remove all the evils.
The fruits of this plant are used in phytotherapy for astringent, diuretic, detergent, refreshing and toning properties.
From the young wood of the rowan, a dark liquid is extracted to dye fabrics. The tannin extracted from the leaves was once used for the tanning of the hides. The wood, colored in brown red, with lighter sapwood, is particularly hard and elastic and is used in the construction of pieces subject to strong friction, as well as in woodworking for rural and household tools, lathe and carving work. Moreover, this plant is also used as an ornamental plant.
Sorbitol is extracted from the fruit of the Sorbo, which has important nutritional characteristics (example for diabetics), is used in the food industry or is transformed to obtain other substances useful for the industry. The sorbole are rich in vitamin C and have a sour taste due to the significant content of malic acid. When ripe, the sugar content reaches 20%.
An ancient proverb states: “In time and with straw strawberries grow” (which is equivalent to saying: it takes patience, you have to wait to see the results).
Preparation Mode –
The fruits of the rowan in the past were mostly part of human nutrition; today, unfortunately, their consumption has considerably decreased. Fruits are used to make cider, jams, liqueurs and sauces.
– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Pharmacy of the Lord, Advice and experience with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Publisher
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (edited by), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only and do not in any way represent a medical prescription; there is therefore no liability for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.