An ancient variety of borlotti bean is grown in the municipality of Gambolò, but also in other villages in the Lomellina region. The first certain sources to attribute Borlotto beans from Gambolò date back to the beginning of the 19th century: this crop was a very important source of protein in the meatless diet of farming families.
Before sowing, the four-foot supports (made from reed, willow or bamboo poles) are placed in position, which are essential to support the plant as it grows.
All work is done by hand, including harvesting, which begins in July in stages: first a green harvest, then until August. The dry harvest takes place at the end of July and the end of August.
The cultivation of this variety requires sandy soil and the plant, which is a climber, can reach up to 3 metres in height. The pods produced are medium-sized, around 12 to 16 centimetres, have a wrinkled surface and contain 5 or 6 seeds. The seeds appear rather smooth to the touch, are round and one centimetre in size. The colour of the seeds is creamy white, while when dried they tend to be brown. They also have a purple-red variegation and a characteristic stripe on both faces.
The flesh of the Gambolò borlotto is floury, with a delicate flavour and a sweetish taste. It lends itself to various gastronomic uses and is used in many traditional recipes of the Lomellina, such as: rice and beans, beans with onion, risotto with sausage and ris e barlánd. In addition, these beans are the main ingredient of the special ‘torta ariosa’.
Because of the heavy manual labour required during the growing cycle and afterwards, the cultivation of Gambolò borlotto beans has been reduced. Since part of the production falls in an area of the Ticino Park, since 2005 projects have been promoted to enhance this variety in which the local producers’ association is also involved.
This variety of bean has been researched by some professors and researchers of the University of Pavia, who have collected in a publication a lot of information on a large number of local Lombardy varieties ("Le varietà agronomiche lombarde tradizionali a rischio di estinzione o di erosione genetica Ortive e cerealicole: uno sguardo d’insieme" , G. Rossi, F. Guzzon, M. Canella, E. R. Tazzari, P. Cauzzi, S. Bodino, N. M. G. Ardenghi, Pavia University Press, Italy). , G.Rossi, F. Guzzon, M. Canella, E. R. Tazzari, P. Cauzzi, S. Bodino, N. M.G. Ardenghi , Pavia University Press, 2019)