V. unguiculata (L.) Walp. subsp. unguiculata cv-gr. unguiculata
RISK OF EROSION: medium
The “Trasimeno bean” is a legume belonging to the Vigna unguiculata species, known by the common name of “cowpea”, originally from Africa and introduced in our continent since ancient times.
The “Trasimeno bean” is a legume belonging to the Vigna unguiculata species, known by the common name of “cowpea”, originally from Africa and introduced in our continent since ancient times. It is the only bean species grown in Europe before the advent of the American varieties. The Greeks, who were the first to give the legume the name phàseolos, apparently cultivated it already around 300 BC. A first mention is found in Theophrastus’s Historia Plantarum, it is then mentioned by Galen and Pliny the Elder in his Naturalis historia. In the thirteenth century Albert the Great describes the appearance of these legumes, with seeds of many colors and with the characteristic eye. As is known, the discovery of America brought numerous foods hitherto unknown to the Old Continent, including a species of bean other than the native one which had rapid and intense diffusion also thanks to the ease of cultivation and good production yield, gradually going almost to supplant the local variety. For a few decades, the American variety was distinguished from the native one by means of the turquoise appellation, generally used to indicate foreign and exotic products. In 1570 the doctor and naturalist Costanzo Felici distinguished with precision the native beans (simply calling them beeches) from the new Turkish (American) beeches, identifying the morphological difference in color and in the absence of the characteristic black spot. It was necessary to wait until the first half of the eighteenth century to have a systematic taxonomic classification of beans with Carlo Linneo, thanks to the attribution of the two known types to two distinct species. The first written testimony of the cultivation of the Trasimeno bean dates back to 1876: in the overview of Umbrian agricultural production published in 1876 by the Perugian engineer Luigi Monaldi in the Giornale Agrario Italiano we find explicit mention of the Trasimeno bean with regard to the varieties of legumes grown in the region. : «Near the Trasimeno the so-called bean of the lake is abundantly cultivated, which I believe is a variety of the dolichos cathiang». Following Monaldi’s study, authoritative confirmation of the presence of this legume in the Trasimeno area is contained in the report relating to the Province of Perugia of the Agrarian Inquiry and on the conditions of the agricultural class, known as the Jacini Inquiry, concluded in 1885, where in the chapter dedicated to the production of legumes in Umbria much of the news concerning the bean concerns the Trasimeno bean, which is identified as the ideal habitat in the extremely fertile land uncovered by the seasonal decline of the lake: “in the lands that limit Lake Trasimeno, when in the summer, when the waters withdraw, or because they are disposed of by the emissary, or evaporated, considerable extensions of land are discovered, at that time some colonists immediately run to reduce them to cultivation and draining them with enormous drainage pits, they sow the so-called bean from the eye, which finding those lands fertilized by the deposits of plant substances ren of a fabulous product, so much so that it can even reach 20 hectoliters per hectare; but more often, in case of prolonged rains, the waters return to cover these lands and destroy in a moment every product, and the hard and dangerous labors (due to the fevers that reign there) of those hard-working settlers ». From oral testimonies of some farmers in the area, it seems that the cultivation of the bean made available a product of mass consumption relieved of the dominical burdens. Thanks, in fact, to the possibility of a late sowing (June-July), many sharecroppers used to plant the beans in immediate succession on the stubble of the cereals (wheat, barley, …) just reaped, thus removing it from the master’s control. This would be one of the reasons that can be linked, in the opinion of the local people, to the persistence of a crop (elsewhere completely supplanted by the new varieties), the choice of which seems to have been privileged also by virtue of the possibility of a double harvest, offered by the cultural peculiarities of the species. At the beginning of the Thirties, the Italian Gastronomic Guide of the Italian Touring Club at its first edition included the Trasimeno cowpea among the vegetables that “excel in the Perugian countryside”, giving the following description: “the bean of lake, small whitish beans with brown eyes, easy to cook and very tasty ». The Trasimeno bean is also mentioned in the Gastronomic Guide of Italy, published in 1975 by the De Agostini Geographical Institute, in which the author Felice Cunsolo remembers “the green beans of the riparian lands of Trasimeno” about the noteworthy vegetable productions among Umbrian agri-food specialties. Despite the certifications received, the Trasimeno bean, mainly intended for family self-consumption, risked extinction after World War II because, due to the gradual ripening it had to be harvested manually. Since the seventies of the last century, the presence of the Trasimeno bean in the square of Perugia is attested, albeit in modest quantities, on the initiative of the owner of an old grocery store, who obtained the product directly from a family of farmers in the Trasimeno area. On the Perugia market, the white eyeless shape, the most popular in the city, was called “risina del lago”. Text by Dr. Silvia Spedicato (University of Perugia) for 3A-PTA.
TYPICAL PRODUCTION AREA
The traditional area of diffusion is the Trasimeno district, that is the territory included in the Municipalities of Castiglione del Lago, Passignano sul Trasimeno, Tuoro sul Trasimeno, Magione, Città della Pieve, Piegaro, Corciano, Panicale, Paciano.
The pods are eaten boiled and simply seasoned with oil or sautéed in a pan with garlic and tomato. The seeds (the most used part) are consumed boiled, alone or together with other legumes and cereals. High-ranking and internationally renowned chefs have used the bean in various ways in their preparations, alone or as an accompaniment to meat or fish. Local restaurants often offer it in combination with lake fish. It goes well with truffles or in pasta dishes, as a condiment (tagliolini) or as a filling (ravioli).
Texts taken from “Regional register of autochthonous genetic resources of the Umbria Region”