The Carnic Alps tower imposingly over the border with Austria in the far north of Friuli. Nestling at an altitude of 1,200 meters in this mountain area of steep slopes and narrow valleys is the village of Sauris, at the exact point in which the Val Lumei opens out onto a landscape of verdant meadows as far as the eye can see.
The local area offers ideal conditions for a distinctive variety of fava bean, known in the local dialect as poan. The Sauris fava bean is an annual leguminous plant which, when it is fully developed, reaches a height of about 1.40 meters. For centuries local famers selected, preserved and reproduced the seeds from the best plants.
The Sauris fava bean is harvested by hand towards the end of August. The plants are transferred to the seccaiole, “kheisn” in German, which are to be found at the outskirts of villages. After about a month, when the drying process is complete, the plants are hand-threshed. The threshed plants are then cast against the wind with a special shovel and the seeds are separated from the pods with a sieve.
At one time, every family grew fava beans in their garden because, thanks to their versatility, they were a fundamental source of nutrition through the long mountain winters. Roasted and ground, the beans produce excellent flour for making bread or polenta (combined with cereals) and can even be used to make ersatz coffee. Traditional dishes par excellence are fava bean soup and boiled fava beans with butter.
In the 1960s, the industrialization of agriculture and the spread of the most commercial varieties compromised the cultivation of fava beans, which were replaced by easier-to-sell plain beans. The inhabitants of Sauris, however, have realized that they possess a unique and precious variety – irreplaceable given its ability to grow at an altitude of 1,200 meters – and have begun growing it again.
Today, work is being done to promote Sauris fava beans as the staple ingredient in the diets of the local mountain villages. The Presidium was established to support the protection and valorization of the beans. Its production protocol provides for self-production of the seed and triennial rotation with cereals and potatoes (or beet), ruling out any kind of chemical treatment.
Commune of Sauris
Friuli-Venezia Giulia Regional Authority