Chickpeas are among the most eaten and widespread legumes in the world, from hummus to the many uses of its flour.
Although their use is less common in Italy, they can still be found in some of the country's iconic regional dishes like Roman favourite, pasta e ceci (pasta with chickpeas), and farinata.
However, in the southern Italian region of Puglia, a very special black chickpea can be found: the Murgia Carsica Black Chickpea, a rare and historic chickpeawhich is also protected by the Slow Food Presidium of Puglia.
Murgia Carsica Black Chickpea | What is it?
Murgia Carsica Black Chickpeas are small and shaped like corn kernels with a rough and irregular skin.
They are harvested at the end of the summer but, once dried, are available all year round and perfect for turning into delicious recipes.
This rare, yet very tasty legume importantly contains about three times more fibre than common chickpeas plus a good dose of iron.
The Murgia Carsica Black Chickpea has never had a huge market, largely because of their particularly thick skin which requires some lengthy preparation time before eating. They need to be soaked for more than twelve hours before two hours cooking time.
However, while these black chickpeas are more of a challenge to cook with, they are well worth the effort for their mild herbal taste and natural flavor, making them readily enjoyable with a simple extra virgin olive oil, without even adding salt.
Tradition dictates that these black chickpeas are cooked in soup, with a lot of fried onion, or in a first course with tomato and oil.
The History of the Murgia Carsica Black Chickpea
In the 19th Century there were numerous farms in the southern part of Murgia, in central Puglia, from vineyards to olive groves, perfectly suited to the rocky and arid terrain.
Shepherds and peasants planted pulses and onions, mainly for domestic use, forming the basis of their diet. Which is why the Murgia Carsica black chickpea is the star of simple, humble yet tasty dishes.
The Murgia Carisca Black Chickpea Today
Over the years, with the exception of some more profitable olive groves and vines, the crops in the area began to disapper to make space for industrialization.
Yet, little by little, the cultivation of lentils, onions and chickpeas has begun to show signs of recovery in recent years with six farmers, which today constitute the Slow Food Presidium, re-cultivating the native black chickpea.
Photo: Alberto Bizzini / Flickr.com
Now the Mugia Carsica black chickpea is cultivated in the municipalities of Acquaviva delle Fonti, Cassano delle Murge, Sant'Eramo in Colle and other inhabited centres in the province of Bari. Discover a list of producers here.