Lusitânica black chicken

Ark of taste
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The Lusitânica black chicken is native to north-western Portugal, it is characterised by a black coat with greenish blue metallic highlights. The rooster weighs up to 3 kg, the hen 2.5 kg. The head is broad; the beak is robust, semi-curved and dark slate in colour; the eyes are prominent. The neck is generally full of plumage, but in the "bald" variety the entire dorsal portion is featherless. Its bearing is elegant, proud and vigorous.

The Lusitânica black chicken has always been an important factor in the domestic economy of this region, and families have contributed over the years to defending and preserving its unique genetic heritage. Its great robustness, adaptability and resistance to disease have made it an attractive variety for breeders. In addition to this, breeding in extensive free-range or semi-free systems and traditional rural production methods have contributed to its prestige.

As in the past, it is now women who take care of the poultry houses, which have always been considered an unprofitable activity. In the past, however, it was precisely these farms that made it possible to make ends meet. The eggs and animals produced were sold directly at local fairs and markets.

Its meat is highly valued and appreciated for its quality and delicacy, but the Lusitânica black chicken is also valued for its laying ability. It is used for the traditional cabidela rice, also called “Pica no Chão”, combined with rabbit and duck meat.

The black breed is the oldest and has always been linked to witchcraft: popular legends say it protects against the evil eye. Even today, it is still common practice to use it to drive away evil spirits during the “sacred bath” in São Bartolomeu do Mar. It is a traditional practice that before reaching the age of seven, children must, with their families, go round the saint’s chapel three times with the black hen under their arm, pass under the bed three times and, finally, dive into the sea to complete the purification ritual. It is also used traditionally and culturally as a scarecrow spirit and a symbol of good luck.

Due to migration in the 1960s, this area has a very old population, which has led to consequences for the local economic, social and cultural spheres. For this reason, its preservation is due to the survival of a marginalised rural world. The existence of the Lusitânica black chicken perpetuates not only the culture, customs, traditions and gastronomy of a people, but also its identity and history, preserving a genetic heritage of unquantifiable value.

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Breeds and animal husbandry

Nominated by:Chef Ricardo Costa, The Yeatman, Relais & Châteaux