The first written evidence of these lentils in the area around Villalba is their mention by writer Giovanni Mulè Bertolo in his book Memorie del Comune di Villalba, published in 1900. However, Villalba lentils have been grown around here for centuries, rotated in the fields with wheat along with chickpeas and fava beans.
Like Altamura lentils, these lentils have large seeds, typical of temperate areas. Cultivation is still very sustainable, requiring no fertilizers, treatments or irrigation.
The lentils are picked by hand around the middle of June. The plants are gathered into small bundles and left to dry in the open air for five to eight days before being mechanically threshed.
The lentils are harvested in mid-June, and once dried they are available year-round.
The lentils reached their peak production between the 1930s and the 1960s, when around 30 percent of Italian lentils came from Sicily, and especially Villalba. This legume was particularly in demand for its remarkable sensory characteristics and because the market at the time favored the large-seed types.
Later the cost of labor and limited yields forced many producers to abandon the crop, already in decline from the 1980s onwards. Now the Presidium wants to promote this fascinating and iron-rich legume.
Filippo Calafato, Fattoria Di Gesù di Francesco Di Gesù, Calogera Ferrara,
Dario Ferrara, Giovanna Ferrara, Graziella Saia di Villalba (provincia di Catanissetta)
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