Known since ancient times, Leonforte Fava Beans were once extremely widespread as they were planted as a rotation crop with wheat. Their purpose was to replenish the nitrogen in the soil, and were (and still are) a key ingredient in the local cuisine.
Fava beans are good and, as they say in Leonforte, they’re cucivuli; that is, they are easy to cook and don’t have to be soaked first (like other legumes).
At the end of March the green fava beans are harvested: these are soaked in salt and spring onions and served with pecorino cheese (in a dish called favaiana e cipuddetti). They can also be served as a frittedda: fried in extra-virgin olive oil with bacon and onions and then cooked on a low flame.
The smallest seeds were fed to animals, while the largest were sold to merchants. As a result, the fava bean fields were progressively shrinking year after year and the fava bean itself was at serious risk of extinction.
Cultivation is still completely done by hand.
In November and December the tracks are prepared, the seeds are planted in small groups (a postarella), and then covered with soil. Afterwards, the ground is hoed in order to remove grass and some extra soil is added around the seedlings.
Once the plants start to wilt they are cut down, dried in small bunches (manate di favi) and beaten in the courtyard (whereas they used to be walked on by animals). In order to separate the so-called furba (that is, the remains of the stalks and leaves) from the seeds, they are thrown in the air with a pitchfork on slightly breezy days.
Dried beans can be found throughout the year.
The Presidium hopes to promote the land around Leonforte, a green oasis in the heart of the surrounding arid countryside, through its two flagship products: fava beans, obviously, and the late-harvest peaches.
The production protocol helps the producers by guaranteeing traditional cultivation techniques, from planting carefully selected beans to the manual labor that both distinguishes the product’s quality and defends the land from over-mechanization.
The producers are possessive and proud of their seeds, and they defend them from contamination with other outside varieties, while promoting their distinct properties as a form of conservation and maintenance.
Isabella Barbera, Leonforte (En), Via Boccaccio 34, Tel. +39 339 4236628, firstname.lastname@example.org