The tiny medieval village of Navelli looks out over the plain of the same name, at the foot of the Gran Sasso. In October, the countryside turns purple thanks to the crocus flowers whose saffron is famous all over Italy. But another crop has also been essential to the community’s economy, history and subsistence: a local variety of chickpea.
The village still celebrates the legume with a festival at the end of August, during which the villagers and local growers try to outdo each other with local recipes like chickpea stew and chickpeas with saffron.
Navelli chickpeas are usually small, cream colored and smooth, but a few producers still grow a second type, smaller and rusty red in color, with a wrinkled surface. Historically the white chickpeas were sold while the red ones were kept for family consumption.
The chickpeas are grown between 700 and 800 meters above sea level in soil that is arid, light and sometimes stony, with little standing water. As an old saying goes, “Don’t plant chickpeas in black soil”: The plant would flourish in dark, fertile earth but produce few seeds.
The seeds are sown in the spring, between March and April, though sometimes sowing is delayed depending on the seasonal weather conditions. Every three or six years the chickpeas are rotated with wheat, barley, spelt and forage plants like alfalfa and sainfoin. The harvest takes place between the end of July and the end of August. In small plots, the plants are left to almost completely dry out, uprooted and collected in bundles known as mannelli and left to dry further in the fields, then threshed by hand. In larger fields, threshing machines are used.
The red chickpeas have a tougher skin, are more floury, have a stronger flavor and require longer cooking times, so they are best used in soup. One of the heartiest dishes of Abruzzian tradition is chickpea and chestnut soup, customarily served at the start of Christmas Eve dinner.
The harvest takes place between the end of July and the end of August.
The producers have set up an association and drafted a production protocol which guarantees the natural sustainability of the chickpea crop.
The aim is to promote the legume outside the local market and to revive its use in local restaurants, following the example of the Santo Stefano di Sessanio Lentil Presidium.
Navelli plain, L’Aquila province
Presidium supported by
Gal Gran Sasso Velino
Via dei Mori, 5
Tel. +39 339 6223456
Via del Commercio, 3
Tel. +39 338 3304194
Giuliana Di Luzio
Via Fontevecchia, 5
Tel. +39 338 5865607 / 339 7797235
Berardino Di Felice
Via Spiagge grandi, 26
Tel. +39 329 6121814
Agnese Di Iorio
Via Cavour, 3
Tel. +39 334 9038827
Via Roma, 10
Tel. +39 339 2806981
Via Spiagge piccole, 2
Via Pereto, 11