The durum wheat variety (Triticum durum) locally known as Guemh Ziz
has been grown for more than 50 years in a specific region: approximately 400 hectares along the valley of Haut Ziz, in the municipalities of M’zizel, Sidi Ayad and Guers Tiallaline.
A valley that takes its name from the river Ziz, which originates from the high east Atlas, and after about 300 km, is lost in the Sahara dessert in Algeria.
It is the most cultivated grain in Autumn in this area. It matures early, is productive (23 t/ha) and is generally cultivated in bour (i.e., without irrigation, because at an altitude of approximately 1350 metres above sea level, the rain is sufficient), and is very tolerant to arid climates. Moreover, it produces a lot of straw.
The seeds preserved and reproduced by local farmers after each harvest are hard to find in the market. Knowledge is tied to the reproduction of seeds and is handed down from generation to generation.
Interest has risen in this local variety in recent times, following an increase in demand by the population. Members of the family learn production techniques and the art of transforming the wheat from a very young age, in order to produce local products and traditional recipes such as cus cus and lamhamssa, a local pasta in the form of tiny balls. Lamhamssa is cooked with milk, or with tomato sauce. It can also be prepared as a soup with onions, herbs, tomatoes and a mixture of spices.
The production and transformation of wheat by the Haut Ziz is in fact a family tradition that today also involves groups of women responsible for its transformation.