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The Ancient Scicli Bean Makes a Comeback


23/05/12
«It's the most beautiful city we've ever seen. More than Piazza Armerina. More than Caltagirone. More than Ragusa, and more than Nicosia, and more than Enna... Maybe it's the most beautiful of all the cities in the world. And people are happy in cities that are beautiful...».

Those words were written by Elio Vittorini about Scicli, in Sicily's Iblei mountains. And the town is truly stupendous, a splendid example of late baroque, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Like the rest of the plain around Ragusa, the economy of Scicli is almost entirely based around intensive agriculture. Supplying the earliest vegetables has made the fortune of this province, the richest on the island. Citrus fruits, olives, carob, grapes and almonds are also grown in plots marked out by the endless rows of drystone walls that embroider the whole Iblei uplands.

Alongside the more valuable crops, a group of Scicli farmers also still grows a small bean, for which a Slow Food Presidium was created a few weeks ago. The Cosaruciaru bean, whose name means "sweet thing" in the local dialect, is creamy white in color with distinctive reddish-brown streaks around the hilum. The bean has been cultivated since the early 1900s, when the Cosaruciaru, also known as Casola Cosaruciara, played a significant role in the local agricultural economy. The booming market for early produce eventually put an end to many of the "poorer" crops which had been the basis of the local cuisine. But a few old people kept growing the Cosaruciaru beans in their vegetable gardens for themselves. With the help of experts from the Sicily Regional Authority's Department for Agricultural and Food Resources and the Agricultural Development Agency, who have a base in Scicli, a group of around 10 growers founded an association and signed a production protocol that specified cultivation according to traditional practices, in the middle of the field.

 

The Presidium was inaugurated on May 4 with the blessing of the bean's "patron saint," who a few years ago drew the attention of local agronomists to the small legume. Marcello Perracchio is a theater and television actor, known especially for his role as Doctor Pasquano, the coroner on the series Il Commissario Montalbano, mostly shot in and around Scicli. He talked about his connection with gastronomic traditions, mentioning the dishes his mother used to prepare with Casaruciaru beans when he was a child. Back then, the beans were sold at the local grocery store, and a special area, the cannavate, the alluvial land along the Modica-Scicli river, was set aside for growing them. The growers, known as ciumarari from ciume, Sicilian for river, brought the beans into town on small carts and sold them to the local shopkeepers for a good price.

 

The beans will be on display and available for tasting at the Salone del Gusto in Turin (October 25-29), where the producers will be presenting the Presidium and describing the revival of Cosaruciaru cultivation.







   
 
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