Tunisian Traditional Durum Wheat Varieties

Slow Food Presidium

Tunisia

La Manouba

Cereals and flours

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Tunisian Traditional Durum Wheat Varieties

Grains, particularly durum wheat and barley, have been a fundamental component of Tunisian agriculture and food for centuries: couscous was already a traditional Amazigh dish, and Tunisia was even, according to legend, matmouret rouma, the granary of Rome. Even today, derived food products such as couscous, bread and pasta are associated with rituals of communion and sharing that give the grain strong symbolic and communal values.
Unfortunately, many of the traditional varieties have been lost, replaced by more productive but less nutritious ones that require significant chemical fertilizer inputs to the detriment of the soil and the entire ecosystem.
Nevertheless, in northern Tunisia, in the highlands between Tebourba, Nefsa, Jendouba, el Kef, Siliana, and Zaghouane, one can still find farms that cultivate, select, and guard some traditional varieties of cereals, along with olive groves, legumes, vegetables, bees, and small herds of cows and goats.
In particular, three traditional varieties of durum wheat-Mahmoudi, Chili, Biskri-characterized by high size and amber, glassy grains-are grown in these areas.
The grains yield semolina, an ingredient in couscous, bread, and borghul (steamed, dried, and crushed wheat). In addition, for centuries, women have handed down recipes for making pastas such as hlalam (similar to trofie), nwasser (for soup) and rechta (a kind of noodle, flat and eggless).
The Chili variety is among the oldest, but very few farmers still grow it, on small plots in hilly areas or on slopes not easily accessible to mechanical means. Compared to modern varieties, Chili has a much taller stem; at one time, it was used to make mats with which the walls of pits dug in the ground and intended precisely for grain storage were lined. The Biskri variety is distinguished by its very light amber grains, white glumes and black barbs. It has a reputation for being a very drought-resistant variety and also for producing excellent semolina.
The Mahmoudi variety, on the other hand, was selected in the early 1900s for its nutritional value and its resistance to drought and black wheat rust. It is grown mainly in hilly areas: some soils are flat (and therefore allow the use of machinery, such as threshing machine); others, however, are characterized by steep slopes and do not allow the use of agricultural means. In these cases the cultivation technique is completely manual, from planting to harvesting.
No chemical fertilizers or pesticides are used in the fields, and to prevent soil depletion, wheat is rotated with legumes.
The cultivation of these traditional varieties and the associated cultivation techniques allow the presidium producers to maintain soil fertility and preserve these difficult soils from erosion.

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The main objectives of the Presidium are to protect ancient wheat varieties in the highlands of north-central Tunisia and to create a community of producers and processors who transform the semolina into durum wheat couscous and various types of traditional pasta. This project aims to reactivate a local micro-economy, giving due recognition to the communities' agricultural labor and artisanal processing, while safeguarding biodiversity, land and local culture.

Production Area.
Manouba, Zaghouane, Jendouba, Bizerte, Siliana, Kasserine
Youssef hamouda, Zaghouane

Mohamed Chtiba, Zaghouane

Hamouda Daagi Manouba

Chedly Mestiri, Beja

Dhaoui Wahabi, Beja
Presidium coordinator
Habib Ayeb
tel. +33652308968
habib.ayeb1@gmail.com
The main objectives of the Presidium are to protect ancient wheat varieties in the highlands of north-central Tunisia and to create a community of producers and processors who transform the semolina into durum wheat couscous and various types of traditional pasta. This project aims to reactivate a local micro-economy, giving due recognition to the communities' agricultural labor and artisanal processing, while safeguarding biodiversity, land and local culture.

Production Area.
Manouba, Zaghouane, Jendouba, Bizerte, Siliana, Kasserine
Youssef hamouda, Zaghouane

Mohamed Chtiba, Zaghouane

Hamouda Daagi Manouba

Chedly Mestiri, Beja

Dhaoui Wahabi, Beja
Presidium coordinator
Habib Ayeb
tel. +33652308968
habib.ayeb1@gmail.com

Territory

StateTunisia
RegionLa Manouba

Other info

CategoriesCereals and flours