The Valnerina is the valley formed by the Nera river, which originates from the Sibillini mountains, in the Marche region, but flows almost entirely in Umbria, before flowing into the Tiber, in Lazio. The valley is located in the south-eastern area of Umbria and is characterized, in the upper part, by mountainous, steep and often difficult to cultivate soils. The climate is different from that of the rest of the region, with harsher winters and less hot summers, due to the height of the surrounding mountains. For these reasons, in this valley you can find very particular products, such as roveja (a small legume similar to pea) and buckwheat, which unlike more common crops, are able to exploit even the poorest and most inaccessible soils of the upper Valnerina.
The name of buckwheat rightly evokes distant origins (its domestication area has been identified in the mountains of southern China) and an affinity with grasses. In reality, the grain is similar to that of cereals, but the botanical family is different (Polygonaceae). It moderately resists the cold, but needs a regular supply of water: this is why it has spread throughout the Alps and in the Apennine areas of central Italy. The plant has a short crop cycle (about 120 days), which allows you to rotate with other products (winter legumes and cereals) and does not require fertilization or chemical treatments.
It blooms at the end of May and a very particular honey is obtained from the foraging of its white and pink flowers. The harvest takes place from the end of August to September. In many cases the buckwheat is still mowed by hand and harvested in sheaves that remain in the field for 15-20 days, so that it can be fully matured, before proceeding to threshing. Alternatively, combine harvesting is used, while waiting for 80-90% of the achenes to be browned.
In Valnerina, the presence of buckwheat has been attested since the Middle Ages and in some writings of the time it is also mentioned as a medicinal plant. It has always been a product with multiple uses: with its flour you can make pasta, desserts, polenta. You can also consume the grain, but only after having peeled it. Its health properties range from the low lipid content to the high biological value of proteins, superior even to legumes, to the absence of gluten, (an aspect that makes it unsuitable for bread making, at least in purity).
A typical recipe of the area is the buckwheat and lentil soup, another typical local product: after boiling the lentils together with the aromas, the buckwheat grains are cooked directly in the cooking broth, the lentils are added at the end of cooking and seasoned with raw extra virgin olive oil.
The abandonment of mountain areas, over-laborious and costly harvesting, the introduction of more productive crops, the mass importation of buckwheat from abroad: these are the main reasons why cultivation of this “pseudo-cereal” halved in the first decade of the last century and almost disappeared in the decades that followed. Today a few small areas of land under cultivation survive in the Valnerina at an altitude of over 600 meters.
Yet buckwheat is a product of great value for human health and the environment. It also constitutes a resource for mountain areas and can be grown following sustainable agronomic practices without the use of chemical weedkillers, fertilizers and plant protection products.
The Presidium was set up to support the reintroduction of buckwheat into the Valnerina, to help halt the abandonment of the district (which was hit by the earthquakes of 2016 and 2017), and to re-establish the local supply chain. Producers currently commercialize buckwheat groats, hulled groats and flour.
Communes of Norcia, Cascia, Preci, Poggiodomo, Cerreto di Spoleto, Sant’Anatolia di Narco and Sellano dell’Alta Valnerina in the Upper Valnerina, in the province of Perugia.
Communes of Ussita, Visso and Castelsantangelo sul Nera in the province of Macerata and Leonessa, in the province of Rieti.
Buckwheat is harvested in September and is available all year round.
Daniele Giovannoli, Azienda Agricola Tamorri Vera, Località Buda di Cascia, Tel. +39 3471966485, firstname.lastname@example.org
Azienda Agricola Lavosi Maurizio, Località Fogliano di Cascia, Tel. +39 3332495493, email@example.com
Azienda Agricola Persiani Roberto, Località Colmotino di Cascia, Tel. +39 3383235453, firstname.lastname@example.org