Laverino is a tiny village in the Marche with barely a hundred residents, up in the mountains close to the Cornello Pass and the Umbrian border.
The fertile lands around the Potenza River here proved the ideal habitat for a bean that reached the region in the 16th century with the Spanish and the Portuguese, like all the Phaseolus vulgaris varieties.
The bean plant can grow up to 2 or even 3 meters tall. The medium-small, white and slightly elongated beans are appreciated for their delicate flavor and very thin skin, meaning they cook quickly.
The bean’s fame dates back as far as the early 1800s, when the Annals of Agriculture of the Kingdom of Italy talked about the fertile lands of this area, with the author writing, “They give quantities of beans whose delicacy, flavor, sweetness and ease of cooking are superior to those from all the surrounding towns.”
Laverino beans are grown at around 600 meters above sea level, in fields known as canapine, because they were once used to grow canapa (hemp). The plots are marked out by small channels that run at right angles to the river.
The beans are sown after May 18 (Saint Venantius’s Day) at regular distances, with four or five seeds per hole. The indeterminately growing plant must be supported, and traditionally was trained up a branch from the manna ash tree. The beans ripen in September, and seeds from the first harvest would be selected and set aside for planting next season.
As the plant grows, the only necessary work is weed control, carried out manually, and hoeing. Thanks to the quality of the soil, irrigation is not necessary. The beans are usually rotated with potatoes and green manuring helps reduce the presence of weeds.
After the harvest, the pods are left to dry in the sun, then the beans are shelled and left in wicker baskets out in the sun for a few more days until completely dry.
Laverino beans are used in several traditional local dishes. The cooking style that shows them off best is all’uccelletto, with garlic, sage and pepper, but they are also excellent stewed with pork from the belted pig breed typical of the area.
Over the course of the years production of this legume has risen and fallen, closely linked to demographic trends in the area. The abandonment of the countryside has hit hard here; vineyards and pasture used to cover the hills that are now blanketed with woods.
The task of reviving and promoting this legume began in 2004, when a study of the historic and agronomical aspects of the variety was carried out and the Laverino Bean Festival was launched, held every year in early November. The 2016 earthquake reached Laverino, bringing the local economy to a standstill and somewhat slowing the bean’s revival.
The Presidium has been started thanks the work of local Slow Food Convivia and the contribution of the Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium, which supports several agricultural revival projects in the earthquake-stricken areas of central Italy.
The Presidium’s aim is to provide technical support to young farmers so that they can continue cultivating this variety and recovering abandoned agricultural land, but also to promote other local products like pecorino cheeses and cured meats.
Potenza River basin, Fiuminata municipality, Macerata province, Marche region
The dried beans are available from September
Az. Agr. Grandoni Corrado, Loc. Casal Conte, Fiuminata, tel. +39 3382309609, firstname.lastname@example.org
Az.Agr. Olivieri Ugo, Loc. Laverino, Fiuminata, tel. +39 3342576874, email@example.com
Az.Agr. Santolini Roberto, Loc. Laverino, Fiuminata, tel. +39 3317662729, firstname.lastname@example.org
Az.Agr. Dominici Nazzareno, Loc. Poggio Sorifa, Fiuminata, tel. +39 3490650585
Az.Agr. Agriforest, loc.Laverinello, Fiuminata, tel. 3382903053