Barbela Wheat

Ark of taste
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Trigo barbela

Barbela is an ancient Portuguese wheat variety, named after the beard of a goat. In the Trás os Montes region, once a reservoir of North African Muslim culture, couscous made from this variety is famous. Couscous -here named cuscos- arrived in the Iberian Peninsula through Muslim conquerors, who brought it from the Maghreb. Gradually, couscous as a dish followed the path of other conquests, expansions, and emigrations, spreading throughout the world. It was an important food for the Berber tribes. In the 16th century, couscous made from Barbela wheat was sold on the streets of Lisbon, appeasing the hunger of the plebs and seducing the palates of nobles and royalty. Barbela wheat is grown on thin, sloping land, has good yields; and its growth is only aided by fertilization with manure. Barbela wheat is considered a traditional variety of Trás-os-Montes, particularly from the climatically homogeneous area called ‘Terra Fria,’ associated with a climate of continental characteristics, with many days of frost per year. When Barbela wheat appeared on the National List of Varieties as a traditional variety in 1979, its morphological description corresponded to the following: it reaches a height of one hundred and sixty centimeters and has a slightly erect habit that reveals a weak resistance to allurement but good resistance to dryness. It has long white leaves. It is still grown according to the traditional method. The degree of mechanization varies from village to village and from producer to producer. Most farmers use tractors and more modern implements to prepare the soil and plant the seed, but there are cases where cows and the old plough contribute the necessary means for sowing. Dry couscous is an example of the transformation of a local resource into a food that can be stored for many months. In the past, it replaced products such as pasta and rice, which were heavier on the family economy and were consumed mainly on feast days. Freshly baked, couscous are quick and frugal meals, enjoyed at breakfast or snack time, plain or with sugar and honey. Once dried, Cuscos Transmontanos are cooked in a similar way to rice and combined with local products, such as sausages or wild mushrooms. Sweet Cuscos are also cooked in milk and decorated with cinnamon, in a recipe identical to sweet rice without eggs. Traditionally they were stored in cloth bags in a dry place. To make couscous with mushrooms or sausages, on the other hand, first fry the onion and the chosen ingredient, then add water, season with a pinch of salt; and when it starts to boil, add the couscous and leave it to simmer for a few minutes. The fact that there are no certified Barbela seeds on the market means that there is no guarantee of the seeds being sold. For this reason, to be sure of planting this ancient traditional grain, an exchange takes place between farmers who produce the seed that circulates and market it. The continuity of the crop depended, and continues to depend, on the ability of farmers to produce seed and work in cooperation with other farmers. This ancient variety is threatened by more modern grains, whose see are readily available.

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Production area:Trás os Montes region

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Cereals and flours

Nominated by:Luis Miguel Loureiro de Sousa