Medium-size, tender fava beans were once commonly grown across Ustica.
The legume was a staple in the local cuisine and an important feed resource for livestock farming, now almost completely gone from the island. Thanks to the island’s oldest growers, the seeds have been saved and still exist today.
A classic food of the poor, the fava beans are often eaten fresh between March and May. They are either raw or cooked, for example, in a frittedda with wild fennel. The most typical rustic dish is macco di fave, a thick soup prepared with dried beans and flavored with wild fennel shoots. Macco can be eaten on its own or with pasta.
The beans are cultivated by hand. They are planted in November or December after a couple of plowings. Furrows are dug by a donkey-pulled plow, and then planted with two seeds every 30 to 40 centimeters. Fertilizer and herbicides are not used.
In May, when the plants start to dry out, the harvest begins: the plants are pulled up or cut and bundled into characteristic sheaves, which are left to dry further. After a few days, the island’s wind separates the beans from the chaff. This traditional technique guarantees the seed integrity, which can be compromised by other methods.
Fresh fava beans are found from March to May, and dried beans are available year-round
The Ustica Fava Bean is at risk of extinction due to the spread of parasitical plants (Orobanche) that harm production, as well as its increasingly rare use in the kitchen.
Three producers have enthusiastically welcomed the idea of reviving and promoting this traditional ecotype, inherited from the elderly farmers who have carefully preserved the seed. The producers have decided to follow a strict production protocol aimed at protecting the sustainability of the crop with careful soil management, without the use of chemical fertilizers or herbicides.
Rosaria Lombino, Ustica (Pa), Contrada Tramontana, Tel. +39 331 4089930, email@example.com
U’ Scarpuni, di Giovanni Palmisano, Contrada Tramontana, Tel. +39 333 6788695, firstname.lastname@example.org