The Castelluccio plain, famous for its prized lentils and set against the backdrop of the legendary and mysterious Sibillini Mountains, takes on a fantastic appearance during late Spring.
Thanks to the simultaneous blossoming of the grasslands and lentil fields the great valley is becomes an immense, shimmering display of colour. It's a great transformation from the height of winter when temperatures are known to have dropped to below -30°c.
The road which leads towards the Castelluccio Spur passes right through the middle of the plain.It is here where the most famous lentils of Italy are produced.
They are world famous for their delicate taste and for their tiny size: their diameter reaches around 2 mm.
Since 1998 the lentil produced in Castelluccio di Norcia has been awarded the I.G.T., or Protected Geographical Indication.
Cultivation has always been organic, not because of recent trends, but by going back to the century-old traditions of working the terrains. This has remained unchanged and through the method of crop-rotation, the lentils are cultivated across the hilly, clay fields surrounding the valley. One year wheat, the next lentils, and then the land remains as pasture during the third. And then the process starts all over again. This system allows for no interruption and avoids over exploitation of the soil.
The lack of chemical use and the fact that cultivation is mainly manual justify the somewhat elevated price of the true Castelluccio lentils.
The nutritional properties of these local pulses are their high protein content, a good level of sugars and a low fat content, the latter being of the unsaturated kind which helps to prevent arteriosclerosis.
In addition, lentils are rich in vitamins, minerals and, in particular, high in fibre, necessary for our organisms to function properly and effective against cholesterol. For its high protein content alone, it is considered a highly nutritional food-stuff, especially when accompanied by cereals (bread, pasta, rice).
Eating lentils frequently can prevent many health problems and provide a healthy, balanced and complete diet. Italians seem to remember lentils only around New Year time, but in reality it is advisable to eat them all year round.
Adding their exquisite flavour to other ingredients and recipes: soups, risottos, casseroles, salads, vegetable stews, or added to braised meats.
In order to avoid losing valuable minerals and vitamins, it is best to cook them in as little liquid as possible so that lentil meals will always remain a rich and healthy food source.
This text was produced as part of the 'Qualità ed Innovazione nell'Agroalimentare' project by the Perugia Chamber of Commerce.