From the need for products of family and 'safe' origin and the need to protect the food heritage as well as the future of agriculture, the current trend towards the rediscovery of ancient wheat varieties is born, up to the "evolutionary populations"
Thanks to a greater sensitivity towards national and local productions also due to the arrival of the pandemic, in recent years the demand from consumers to indigenous durum wheat flour, including the so-called "ancient" ones: richer in fiber and protein, they come from non-intensive crops on Italian soil, have a slower starch release and, sometimes, a lower gluten index. It should be remembered, however, that not all grains and semolina considered ancient are suitable "for making pasta": some do not have great pasta making capacity, that is the characteristic of being processed by the machinery that will transform them into pasta without their structure being subjected to too many "Trauma" and loses the ability to dry evenly. Only grains with a high propensity for pasta making and drying will give pasta that will have aexcellent cooking resistance.
The rediscovery of historic wheats has brought their excellent nutritional quality to the fore and, consequently, has given a strong impetus to the enhancement of the territory, culture and local traditions and the maintenance of cultivated biodiversity. Guaranteed by a short and fully traceable supply chain, many of these varieties – usually the prerogative of small businesses in the regional agri-food chain that have chosen the organic and biodynamic path – have recently been "rediscovered" in the interest of making excellent, high-quality local products available to professionals and consumers.
Several rural networks, associations and cooperatives have also sprung up aimed at promoting collective management of agro-biodiversity in the cereal sector: among them stands out Simenza – Sicilian Cumpagnìa Peasant Seeds, which was founded in 2016 to bring together farmers, breeders, processors, researchers and professionals with the aim of protecting and enhancing the vast heritage of Sicilian agricultural biodiversity. Sicily is in fact the region of Italy richest in ancient grains, with 52 varieties of native grains.
The idea of Simenza and associations similar to it stems from the need to safeguard biodiversity – which means saving the seeds from extinction, preserving the spontaneous products of one's land and keeping the treasures, in this case of Sicily, in the hands of local producers. Simenza, which just over a year ago became part of the Confederation Ecologista Più Eco, wants to guide Sicilian farmers towards the management of agro biodiversity with the creation of short supply chains, applying a model of regenerative agriculture and sustainable distribution systems .
Logo Simenza – Sicilian Cumpagnìa Peasant Seeds
"Our associates do not come only from the field: we are a real team of chefs, food bloggers, doctors, journalists, food and wine experts, agronomists and other sector operators who are constantly committed to spreading the principles of ethical food" declares Giuseppe Li Rosi, president of the association, one of the first to get involved on the evolutionary mixture (or grain).
What is it about? The evolutionary concoction it is in fact a mixture of many different varieties of the same kind of wheat. A mix – indeed a "population" – of varieties that grow in the same field at the same time, giving a crop that will be able to cope with adverse situations – diseases, weeds or climate change – thanks to its ability to evolve over time (among different grains of such a varied "population" in the same field there will always be a part that will be able to survive).
Since 2018, Petra Molino Quaglia has made the cause of the evolutionary concoction di Simenza – 1994 varieties of soft wheat, arrived from Aleppo just before the outbreak of the Syrian war, to be rescued – and has developed a project in collaboration with the association to support value chains and sustainable agricultural practices. This is how flour arrived on the market Evolutionary Petra: an "evolved" flour, in fact, never equal to itself because it reflects every time the variations undergone in the field by the grains, their mix, in fact (in fact, the label indicates the harvest year).
Here are three delicious recipes, a sweet pastiera and two first courses, paccheri with guinea fowl ragu and an artichoke carbonara, made with one of the most famous ancient grains, Senatore Cappelli.
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