Lentils are a very ancient cultivated plant that reached the Mediterranean region from the Orient. I have previously posted a piece about Puy lentils from France, well here I want to provide a little information on the lentils produced in the Castelluccio region of Umbria.
Although the cultivation of lentils is not common in Umbria, the few plants that are grown are of extraordinary high quality. The famous lenticchie di Castelluccio, the most sought after lentils in Italy, grow on the high plain of Castelluccio, at an altitude of 1400 metres,. They vary in colour from green, to yellow and pale brown and can also be striped.
The Castelluccio plain is a spectacular piece of land form the naturalistic point of view where sun, air, water and aromas of Nature have remained intact under a magic spell; bit it is also a spectacle with an explosion of colour which offers in the month of June the famous flourishing of lentils. In these plains the ecotypes of lentils have always been cultivated with the characteristics which derive from this particular environment and the traditional cultivation techniques used which have remained intact through the centuries.
The cultivation and geographical characteristics give this legume a unique, full and very identifiable flavour. In fact, Castelluccio lentils are quite different than the other varieties available on the market: the climate and soil of Umbria contribute to their thin skin and soft consistency, allowing for them to be cooked without having soaked first. They are soft after about 20 minutes of cooking.
Lentils are quite a versatile ingredients and can be used in soups and salads. They are particularly good when topped with extra virgin olive oil or stewed with sausage or pork, a traditional Italian preparation New Year’s Eve dinner.
Extremely rich in dietary fibre protein and iron, a diet rich in lentils reduces the incidence of heart disease and stroke and reduces cholesterol levels. If you have the opportunity of being able to source these lentils then you should try them – they are delicious and you should keep them in your pantry.