(Lathyrus sativus) Sometimes it takes a while for things to come back into fashion. This unusual legume is said by some to be among the first cultivated food plants, predating even grain based agriculture. Once a common peasant food in Central Italy, Cicerchia had fallen off the map a bit until interest was recently revived by Slow Food Italy and a presidium dedicated to it’s revival. And, get ready for it... there’s a festival held for it each November in the commune of Serra de’ Conti in the Marche (how many different harvest festivals could you possibly squeeze into one country?) Also known as Chickling Vetch, Grass Pea, Khesari, and Almorta, among other names, the legume has played an important role in the diets of drought prone regions of the Mediterranean, East Africa, and India for centuries as an “insurance crop” on account of its extreme drought tolerance, but therein lies the rub. When eaten daily for months as a primary protein source (such as during prolonged drought periods when it was the only surviving crop), it can cause irreversible nerve damage and even paralysis due to low concentrations of a compound, diaminopropionic acid, found in the seed. The disease is even named “Lathyrism” after the Latin name of the plant. Moderate consumption is not considered dangerous however and the bottom line is: Cicerchia is delicious, sometimes described as a cross between lentils and chickpeas, hearty and earthy and with a tender skin. The “beans” are angular little, white, pebbly things and grow on 3-4 foot vines that, appreciate a little support but really need very little from you, as they are well suited to poor soil and general neglect. Sometimes grown as forage in India they are also one of the best nitrogen fixing cover crops known and can be an excellent component of a crop rotation and soil building regimen. We encourage you to try this unusual and ancient food.
Here's what someone else had to say about them....
I emailed Ken. "Um, I have a bunch of these beans. Should I eat them?" Ken said sure, and in his book he says, "eating the beans now and then poses no danger, only excessive consumption every day for several months. Thorough soaking and cooking also purportedly leaches out most of the neurotoxin." Well, hell! I just played around with sassafras, which some say will give me cancer. Screw it, let's cook some cicerchia!
The way I see it, we are all born with a lethal condition... that will in the end kill 100% of the people born: It's called ageing. If disease or accident don't get us first, we will die a slower death due to this congenital condition.
Exactly right, @baymule I figure I'm not interested in eating these as my primary food, but they sound pretty good tasting, and they fix nitrogen, and I can start them in early spring with the peas and favas so I can get a second crop of something in there after they are harvested. Our growing season is so short that anything that lets me do that is wonderful.
We're about 1/3 of the way through the last bed now, removing 3 years' worth of neglected couch grass. Man this is hard!
I've got the last of the chuck roll in the freeze dryer now, with all the fat trimmings rendering down in the oven (hmm, maybe I should take it out of the oven and try using the instant pot instead?) I still have the pork to do and I'll be done with all that meat I bought. I was going to try corning the brisket, but decided I didn't have enough room in the fridge to cure it safely, so instead it's been cut into several meal sized portions and is residing in the freezer. Tonight's meal is a dinner salad using our fresh lettuce and some of the beef chuck with blue cheese and walnuts. Strawberry ice cream (low carb of course) for dessert.
Looks like an owl or hawk got Raggedy Ann, so now we are down to 1 Rhode Island Red. Ann insisted on not going into the coop at night, hiding from us when we tried to round her up; and the risk finally caught up with her
Sad to loose a hen, especially one dear enough to earn a name! when I first started, all 5 of them were named. The next year, there were 11. Then, there were 17... Then 19... Last winter, I over wintered 32. Only 2 have names, though I can ID quite a few of them in the mixed flock. Only 6 of them were not hatched by me or broody.
We almost had a fire this morning! DS said he smelled something "funny" so I went to investigate. I smelled hot wiring and looked at the plug for the freeze dryer and saw smoke coming out! It's a 3 prong, and the only plug we had easily accessible was a 2 prong, so DH had put in an adaptor. Well, apparently the adaptor wasn't good enough or something, because when he pulled it out, the plastic had almost all melted away and we were probably minutes or maybe even seconds away from fire. I pulled the food out of the machine (it wasn't quite done yet) and then we had to take off for my appointment with a podiatrist. When we got home, we cleared some space in another part of the house that had better wiring and a grounded 3 prong and now I've got it running again.
So now I have boxes and bags crowding the utility room and living room. Guess what I get to do tomorrow?