Medium-size, tender fava beans were once commonly grown across Ustica. The legume was a staple in the local cuisine and an important feed resource for livestock farming, now almost completely gone from the island. Thanks to the island’s oldest growers, the seeds have been saved and still exist today.
The beans are cultivated by hand. They are planted in November or December after a couple of plowings. Furrows are dug by a donkey-pulled plow, and then planted with two seeds every 30 to 40 centimeters. Fertilizer and herbicides are not used. In May, when the plants start to dry out, the harvest begins: The plants are pulled up or cut and bundled into characteristic sheaves, which are left to dry further. After a few days, the island’s wind separates the beans from the chaff. This traditional technique is the best for this broad bean variety; due to its size, other methods would risk breaking the beans.
A classic food of the poor, the fava beans are often eaten fresh between March and May. They are either raw or cooked, for example, in a frittedda with wild fennel. The most typical rustic dish is macco di fave, prepared with dried beans and flavored with wild fennel shoots. Macco can be eaten on its own or with pasta.
Fresh fava beans are found from March to May, and dried beans are available year-round
Ustica island, Palermo province
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