The Pollino White Bean

8.8.2019

In 2019 the municipalities of Mormanno, Laino Castello and Laino Borgo, in association, have decided to establish a special certification of origin of a local food, the so called “Poverello Bianco”, a white Bean, cultivated on the hills of Pollino. This certification is a Municipal Denomination (the so called “De.Co.”).

Landscape of Pollino National Park

It is one of the few cases in which neighboring municipalities recognize a single De.Co.

The regional  authority ARSAC contributed to this important recognition, offering the necessary collaboration to the three Municipalities with meetings between farmers, producers and sitributors, with the preparation of production disciplinary.

BOTANIC FEATURES

The white “Poverello” bean is a local ecotype of Phaseolus vulgaris L., which is cultivated in the territory of the Pollino National Park, in the irrigated areas of the three Municipalities of the Province of Cosenza.

Gorges of the Raganello river

Qualitatively it is characterized by a large oval-shaped white seed, without mottling, with a low percentage of integument and a reduced cooking time. It has a high protein content on average of about 26% and high values of sulfur proteins.

The cultivation of this bean, like all legumes, also has a great environmental value due to the type of root which, penetrating deeply, maintains a good soil structure also preserving it from erosion (such kind of soil protection in Calabria is highly recommended).

Peaks in the Pollino Park

The roots also develop tubercles as a result of the symbiotic relationship with the bacteria of the genus Rhizobium, which are able to fix atmospheric gaseous nitrogen transforming it into nitric and ammoniacal forms easily assimilated by plants and providing a fair amount of nitrogen in the ground.

Pine of the Loricato species

For these reasons, in crop rotations, the cultivation of the white poverello bean, like all legumes, is considered very useful to improve the physico-chemical conditions of the soil.

INITIATIVES TO RELAUNCH THIS PRECIOUS FOOD

Since the beginning of the 90s of the last century various initiatives have carried out to the aim of relaunching the white “Poverello” bean, determining a greater interest on the part of producers and consumers and a consequent increase in cultivated area.

Ancient Pine in the Park

The recent investigation in 2019, in order to ascertain the qualitative characterization of its crop, was conducted by the Agricultural Dissemination Center (Ce.D.A.) n. 2 of the ARSAC of Castrovillari (CS). In collaboration with prestigious research institutions such as the Institute of Biosciences and Bioresources of the CNR of Bari, and the CREA-Research Center for Horticulture in Pontecagnano (SA), the Mediterranean Unversity of Reggio Calabria, and the ENEA.

In all these years, as well as assisting the producers individually, the Technicians have carried out surveys on the agronomic technique, the defense against pests and the quality of the crop by publishing the data in prestigious national and international journals and in acts of conferences.

A Waterfall

The experts even more recently has held seminars attended by young entrepreneurs and concerning both this ecotype and the typical and quality horticulture of the Pollino, leading to the establishment of a cooperative called “Pollino Food Experience“.

THE CULTIVAR

The sowing of this bean is carried out within the first half of June while the harvest takes place by October. As in the tradition, the cultivation technique excludes the use of synthetic chemicals. The product is sold both in bulk and in vacuum packs of 700 and 350 grams.

Sight from the Pollino toward Maratea

From an economic analysis of the cultivation of this ecotype of bean, it emerged that potentially on one hectare it is possible to obtain a production of about 13 quintals (equal to 1,300 kg) of dry product, which, at an average selling price of about 10 , 00 Euro per kg, would provide a Gross Salable Production (GSP) of about 13,000.00 Euro.

Considering that the explicit costs incurred for a production cycle are on average equal to 40% of the value of the GSP – and therefore of about € 5,200.00, a probable income of approximately € 8,000.00 per hectare is calculated.

A Bridge in the gorges

An added value derives from the use of this bean together with other excellent Calabrian products in local restaurants.

In conclusion, in light of the described characteristics and the recognition of the De.Co, this excellent product of our territory, as well as contributing to the further affirmation of a low environmental impact agriculture and to the protection of biodiversity, also represents another opportunity of income for the younger generation.

A lonely giant in the plateau

Figs of India (Prickly Pears) in Calabria

4.8.2019

So called prickly pears or “Figs of India” (fiku d’innia in local dialect), Imported since ancient times in Calabria ,  are the only fruits not treated with any kind of chemical additives, because they grow spontaneously and in abundance in the warmest areas.

This fruit with purifying and refreshing effects, typically maturing in summer, appears to be among the most purchased in Calabria in the period from May to September.

PART OF THE LANDSCAPE

It is impossible to cross Calabria and not to notice the numerous plants of prickly pears, present above all in stony places, an integral part of the South Italian landscape. They stand out with their intense green color enlivened by the red, yellow and orange of the fruits, so characteristic as to constitute an aspect of the Calabrian territory, and in a particular way in the areas of Tropea and its neighboring countries.

A Typical Calabrian Landscape

Prickly pears (in Botanic latin: opuntia ficus indica) belong to the Cactaceae family, they arrived in Italy after a very long journey. Native to South America, this plant lives luxuriantly in the Cordillera of the Andes and in the Mexican greenhouses. The plant made her first appearance in Europe thanks to Christopher Columbus who would take prickly pears to Spain. Some historical sources instead declare that it would have been the Saracens to introduce the figs of India in Italy when, in 827, they landed in Mazara, in Sicily.

A BEAUTIFUL FORM OF LIFE

On the other hand, the plant is very pleasant to see. Both from an aesthetic and a botanical point of view, this plant has fleshy leaves full of thorns, which overlap thus generating a shrub.

A plenty of colors

Its flowers are yellow and the ovoid-shaped fruits grow on top of spiny large “blades” (some large fleshy leaves). Their pulp, juicy and rich in vitamins, contains numerous woody seeds.

A MUST OF MEDITERRANEAN DIET

As said before, the prickly pear has an important peculiarity: it does not require chemical interventions to develop and is therefore one of the very rare varieties of fruit that is not tampered with by man.

Juicy and Vitaminic

It is therefore a product recommended for our tables and for the Mediterranean diet, in which it enters fully for its quantity of vitamins and water.

NUTRACEUTICAL PROPERTIES

Prickly pears have many beneficial properties and have a purifying function also in the liver, therefore they are recommended in cases of kidney stones as they favor diuresis. Taken in the right quantities they have a laxative effect even if the woody seeds contained in the pulp can cause constipation. In addition, the large fleshy leaves of the plant are used to treat various diseases such as angina, tonsillitis, coughs, fevers, suppurations and abscesses.

A DIFFICULT HARVEST

Harvesting of prickly pears requires a technique that is still not mechanized as today the characteristic “coppo” is used, a sort of cone-shaped container on the tip of a stick, employed in order to avoid the annoying and very numerous and light thorns.