Updated: Dec 12, 2019
ITALIAN DELICACIES: CASTELLUCCIO LENTILS
Castelluccio is a little Italian village situated on the Apennines, 28 kilometres from Norcia in the region of Umbria. To reach it, you have to take a panoramic road running across an upland plain, one of the most extensive in Central Italy.
Castelluccio is actually in the National Park of the Sibillini Mountains, at an altitude of 1,452 metres. You may be wondering why this small village is so famous. The explanation lies in Castelluccio lentils, a variety of lentils that is so fine and tasty that it has been awarded IGP status. They keep their shape when cooked and have a stronger, earthier taste than other types of lentils.
WHAT ARE CASTELLUCCIO LENTILS? THE BASIC FACTS
Lentils, belonging to the Papilionaceae family, are rich in fibre, mineral salts and vitamins. The UN, with the intention of highlighting their many virtues, has declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses. Ever since antiquity, they have been called the “poor man’s meat” (25% of proteins). Studies on fossil remains have shown that they were cultivated in Asia as far back as 7000 B.C., and from the region we now know as Syria they spread throughout the Mediterranean basin.
The lentil plant is quite comfortable in karst lands, which are not particularly fertile. However, the quantity of lentils harvested each year is limited, which makes them a niche product. At an altitude of almost 1500 metres, the climate is cold: since Castelluccio lentils are not attacked by the pulse weevil (an insect whose larvae feed off pulses), they do not need to be treated with preservatives.
The farmers of this area were among the first to introduce organic farming methods: every year, on the same land, they alternate lentil crops with a wheat and pasture rotation cycle, without using chemical fertilisers. Read more here.