The maracuoccio is a small legume, similar to a pea but with a square shape and a color that can vary from dark green to brown to red, often speckled or marbled. In general its flavor tends to be slightly bitter. Domesticated between France and the Iberian peninsula at the dawn of agriculture, this legume has been grown for centuries in Lentiscosa, a hilly hamlet in the municipality of Camerota, in the southern part of the Cilento National Park. Its ancient origins are clear from the etymology of its name, with the root “mar” of Semitic origin, indicating something bitter, and the word “cuoccio” deriving from the Latin for pod: a bitter pod, in other words. The plant grows wild around the Mediterranean basin countries, but also in the Caucasus and Central Asia. It belongs to the group of legumes of the Lathyrus genus, like the cicerchia; its scientific name is Lathyrus cicera.
For hundred of years it was grown in the sunniest, chalkiest soils as a feed for livestock but also as a source of protein for the poorest people or during periods of famine. A few Lentiscosa families still cultivate it in the traditional way. In October and November they prepare the soil, then sow the seeds from January to March and harvest from the end of June, when the small pods are completely dried and ready for threshing. The plants, which grow low and are similar to chickpeas, are pulled up, dried, laid on a cloth and beaten to release the seeds. They are then milled into a flour at local mills.
This ancient legume is used in a traditional local dish, maracucciata, a kind of polenta made with half maracuoccio flour and half wheat, chickpea, farro, field bean and cicerchia flour. Extra-virgin olive oil, croutons, onions, garlic and chili turn a simple food into a nutritionally balanced delicacy.
The maracuoccio is also used in another dish emblematic of Cilento cuisine, cicci maritati or cuccia: a soup of different legumes prepared in Cilento villages on particularly symbolic days: at the start of spring, May Day or All Souls’ Day.
The maracuoccio is harvested at the end of June and the flour is available all year round.
The current small harvest is mostly sold to local restaurants and the rest is used for family consumption. The Presidium wants to expand production, involving new young people and creating a local network of restaurants who will promote the product.
Camerota municipality, Salerno province
Presidium supported by
Municipality of Camerota, Parco Nazionale del Cilento e Vallo di Diano
tel. +39 347 5422409
Aura – Passione e Conserve Cilentane
di Luca Cella
tel. 0974 273451 – 329 5966496
tel. +39 0974 379612 - 347 6433149
Località Chiusura e Spinosa
tel. +39 333 2080883 (Salvatore Del Guercio)
Sandro Mattia Peluso
Località Infreschi e Pornia
tel. +39 348 0975027
Sammataro di Domenico Caiazzo
tel. +39 338 4386298
Vaimonte di Domenico Cusati
Località Infreschi e Vaimonte
tel. +39 347 6865817
tel. 347 9336394