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The “cicerchia” looks like grains of pulses and it is originated from an annual herbaceous plant similar to the chickpea. Its ancient origin comes from the Middle East; the Greeks used to call it “Lathiros” while the Romans “Cicercula”. 

In Italy there are about twenty different kinds of this plant which is cultivated in the centre and in the south of the territory in a hilly vegetation or along the coastal zone. The preferred variety (chosen for the excellent flavour and its easy cooking) looks flat and yellowish. The sowing time is in spring, at the end of April, and the harvest is in August.

The plant doesn’t need particular treatment in fact it grows even in difficult conditions, stands up to drought and low temperature, it adjusts also to non fertile soil. As many pulses it has important nutritional characteristic for their high rate of vitamins and proteins, and dried “cicerchia” can be preserved for two years. In the territory of Serra de’ Conti, on the Verdicchio’s hills, a particular kind of “cicerchia” is cultivated using a technique at low environmental impact.

The “cicerchia” looks small and sharp-cornered, its colour is from grey to speckled brown, the peel isn’t very tough and the flavour is less bitter than the other varieties.

With these characteristics it doesn’t need long periods of soaking and cooking. For this reason it has an appreciable taste and it’s suitable for traditional and creative recipes.

Every year, at the end of November, in Serra de’ Conti  the “Cicerchia feast” takes place in many taverns and cellars of the historical centre  which is an important event to relive ancient flavours.

Below some suggestions to learn how to cook cicerchia.

Soak the cicerchia in lukewarm water for 6 hours changing the water 2 or 3 times. Before cooking remove the tough skins which have remained in the water. When cooking don’t use salted water. It’s necessary to use a litre of water for 100 grammas of cicerchia. 

Place the cicerchia in cold water and heats gently until it boils. Cook for 40 minutes covering half of the saucepan with a lid. At the end of cooking time leave the cicerchia in the water until needed to be served. 
This method is used to avoid any hardening caused by water cooling. One of the suggested recipe is Purea of cicerchia with bitter herbs. After cooking, put the cicerchia in the food-mixer adding a bit of the cooking water or some broth until the compound becomes a puree of medium density. Add minced chive. Peel the chicory and boil it for 5 minutes. Then pass it in a saucepan with some oil. Dress with pepper, salt and extra-virgin olive oil.

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