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Food history and gastronomic traditions of beans in Italy

Food history and gastronomic traditions of beans in Italy Beans have been regarded primarily as a staple food for peasants, an affordable protein source for the mass, and a symbol of rustic simplicity by writers of all ages. Among legumes, the common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) probably plays the leading role in typifying these attributes. This species has also shown a remarkable ability to spread around the globe and to replace similar local species in virtually all the cuisines of the world, being nowadays embodied in the gastronomy of several countries. Attitudes toward beans are changing recently, and this legume is no longer considered as only the meat of the poor. This review aims to present a critical overview of the history and role in the gastronomy of common bean and other main cultivated legumes in Italy. After presenting the origin of common bean and its name, and the impact of its introduction to Europe, this contribution discusses the gastronomic history of beans in Italy and the role that socio-cultural differences have played in shaping the use of beans, the conservation of landraces, and food diversity. Finally, perspectives are discussed considering the recent trends in gastronomy and food tourism. Keywords: Common bean, Phaseolus vulgaris, Landraces, Food, Culinary traditions “Beans, on the contrary, produce urine and are fattening, two very good the word “bean” has been used liberally, without a spe- things. But they induce bad dreams.” cific botanical connotation, as is still the case today. For example, in the epic poem Iliad [2], the oldest surviving work of Greek literature, the “dark fava beans” (κύαμοι Severinus the herbalist μελανόχροες) have been translated sometimes as “dark (common) bean.” Beans are described in ancient Greek (The name of the rose, Umberto Eco) under the name of dolichos (e.g., by Theophrastus, the father of botany) and fasiolos (e.g., by Dioscorides). The The origin of the name in the Western culture corresponding Latin words are faseolis (cf. Caelius Api- and of the common bean cius, De Re Coquinaria 8.6.1.2) and phaselus/faselus (cf. The cultivation of legumes goes back to the Neolithic Age Publius Vergilius Maro, Georgica 1.227; L. Iunius Mod- and the dawn of agriculture [1]. Beans likely became an eratus Columella, De Re Rustica 2.7.1.2, 2.10.4.3, 2.10.4.8, integral part of the human diet with the development of 10.1.1.377, and 11.2.75.5). Due to the similarity of the agricultural techniques such as irrigation and companion name, the bean was also considered to have been intro- planting, considering the indeterminate climbing growth duced to Rome from the Greek-Roman city of Phaselis, habit of the species. Beans are already cited in the Old in ancient Lycia, hence the name for the genus [3]. It has Testament of the Holy Bible (cf. Ezekiel, 4,9). However, been also proposed that the word phaselus comes from the ancient Greek phaselus (φασόλι in modern Greek), a light sailing boat with a bean-shaped hull [4]. Phaselus *Correspondence: giacorra@unina.it Department of Agricultural Sciences, Federico II University of Naples, is also often used in Latin to indicate a yacht [5]. None- Naples, Italy theless, is also conceivable that beans were likely known © The Author(s) 2022. 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Corrado Journal of Ethnic Foods (2022) 9:6 Page 2 of 9 by the Greek civilization well before the development of Legumes before the introduction of the common that kind of vessel. The species name derives from the bean in Europe fact that beans have been always considered an ordinary Common bean is an introduced crop for Europeans and and plebeian food, hence “vulgaris” (of the mass) [6]. The the “traditional bean” in Italy, as well as in many Mediter- Roman historian Suetonius, to underline the avarice of ranean countries, was the cowpea (Vigna unguiculata L. the emperor Galba, reports that he rewarded his zealous Walp) [16]. This species was formerly classified under the and diligent accountant with a dish of legumes (cf. Gaius genus Dolichos. The distinctive trait of the cowpea seeds Suetonius Tranquillus, De Vita Caesarum, Gal.12.3.4). is the presence of a dark spot circling the hilum, which The words legume and pulse have Latin roots too. The originated both the common name black-eyed pea and former derives from the verb lĕgo meaning to collect, the old botanical name D. melanophtalmus DC. Cowpea to seize, but also to extract, to remove. Leguminibus was probably domesticated in West Africa [17]. (plural of legumen) were probably all sorts of grains in Most of the information on beans in Italy in ancient pods whose seeds are collected inside them. The word times comes from the Greco-Roman world. Regardless of pulse has an interesting origin, coming from the ancient local diversity, the relatively uniform geo-morphological Roman dish puls. The puls is obtained by mixing the flour and climatic features of the Mediterranean basin deter- of some cereals with hot water, milk (when available), mined the emergence, especially along the coasts, of set- and other ingredients such as wine, pig’s fat and fagots, tlements and cultures with similar primary productions. crushed pepper, and salt, to give a final product like an Specifically, the Aegean area (i.e., the Greek peninsula, emmer porridge [7]. It was also common, for instance for the Aegean islands, and the Anatolian coasts) on one legionaries, to add legumes (as a complementary source side, and the Tyrrhenian-Ionian one (the Magna Graecia) of essential amino acids) and seasonal vegetables to puls on the other, constitute a sufficiently uniform cultural [8]. area to allow a unitary treatment. Literature and schol- In Mexico, archaeological studies have traced the ori- arly writing indicated that the legumes cultivated in these gin of common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) to more areas were chickpeas (Cicer arietinumI L.), fava beans than 7,000  years ago [9, 10]. Archaeological remains do (Vicia faba L.), lentils (Lens culinaris Medikus), peas not show evidence of wild beans, suggesting that bean (Pisum sativum L.), lupins (Lupin spp.), as well as Vigna cultivation was already well established and diffused in unguicolata (see for instance L. Iunius Moderatus Colu- several parts of the American continent. The American mella, De Re Rustica 2.7.1.2). The cowpea was certainly continent is considered the center where wild common present in Italy since the Greco-Roman times [18] as also bean originated and spread. Nonetheless, the precise evidenced in the “De re coquinaria” [19]. Chickpeas and location of the center of origin is still debated. It is cur- fava beans could be grown not only in horti but also in rently believed that the domestication of common bean open fields, given their very wide use. In Italy, these leg - independently occurred in Mexico and Southern Andes umes could be worked with bovine towed plowing [20]. nearly 8000 years ago [11, 12]. For lower classes and small farms, horticulture was as Common beans were diffused in North, Central, and important if not more important than cereal growing. South America in the Pre-Columbian era. It is well docu- A 1/2-hectare plot could not provide enough resources mented that the “Three Sisters” (winter squash, maize, for a plowing animal and legumes were therefore a key and bean) were at the core of the cropping systems of resource of proteins and calories, essential to comple- many Native American agricultural tribes [13]. The beans ment cereals in a mostly vegetarian diet. Moreover, leg- provide nitrogen compounds to the other plants by fix - umes, as many other horticultural products, did not ing nitrogen, the corn provides stalks for the climbing require processing, such as threshing and grinding for bean, and the squash a protective shelter to keep the soil cereals, or pressing and milling for olive oil. A difference moist and to contain weeds. At the time of the discov- between Classic Greek and Imperial Rome was that in ery of the Americas, Aztec agriculture was technically Attica, vegetable gardens were confined to the suburban advanced (e.g., terraced farming, irrigation systems, chi- area by the availability of freshwater for irrigation, while nampas, etc.) and the cuisine was largely based on maize around Rome, starting from the first century AD, a fruit and common bean. Early explorers such as Columbus and vegetable "belt" consisting of small plots of about one and Verrazzano mentioned beans (red and white) and hectare surrounded the Eternal City for a radius of few the importance of pulse crops for local populations [14]. kilometers [20]. The fall of the Roman Empire coincided Based on the Codex Mendoza, it has been estimated that with a reduction, if not the end, of imports of exotic Montezuma received 5000 tons of beans per year as trib- foods, such as palm date and pepper, yet a wealth of cere- ute, an indirect evidence of the large diffusion and cen - als and legumes (e.g., field bean, lentils, grass peas) indi - trality of this cultivation [15]. cated the predominant role of these plants in the diet of C orrado Journal of Ethnic Foods (2022) 9:6 Page 3 of 9 peasants [21]. In Italy, the fava bean was the most impor- has been considered indirect proof of the exotic origin tant legume until the Renaissance. The main reasons of the plant material. However, a similar variability in were the ability to grow without stacks or support and its color and size was also mentioned by Ibn al-Áwwam, the adaptability to a colder climate. The fava bean is generally Arab agronomist of the twelfth century [28]. Naturalists’ eaten raw, although one of the most difficult to digest, accounts also suffer from the fact that the word “bean” and therefore was also employed as a source of proteins has not always been accompanied by a precise morpho- for horses. In the Middle Ages, legumes were an integral logical description or illustration that allows distinguish- part of the cultivation order, and they were promoted to ing what is now known as P. vulgaris from other species the rank of small-grain cereals. For instance, the word of the same or different genera. For instance, some natu - grains include both cereals and legumes in deeds and ralists also attributed some beans to Smilax hortensis. contracts. Fava bean had a dominant role in Italy, often This species (lo Smilace de’ gli orti) was described into being separated or explicitly mentioned in the polyptychs the “Dioscoride” by the Mattioli as producing the so- (polittici) and other documents of the early Middle Ages called fagioli turcheschi (an archaic adjective that can be [22]. The reason should not be sought only in the food translated as “with many colors” or “colorful”) [29], and value of the seeds, but also in the agronomic value that by the German botanist Fuchs (Fuchsius, 1501–1566) as the plant, especially regarding the possibility of autumn producing the “fagiouli italiani” (the Italian beans) [3]. sowing and the beneficial effect for soil fertility in a grain- It is believed that Fuchs left the first depiction of com - centered agriculture. mon bean in a European herbal [25]. However, he does not mention its possible overseas origin or the word pha- First evidence of the common bean in Italy seolus. Although these botanists lived in the XVI century, After the discovery of the Americas, common beans it is not certain that they specifically refer to P. vulgaris, became in a relatively short time a staple food, if com- while Mattioli identifies other introduced crops, such as pared to other introduced crops such as maize, tomato, tomato and pepper. At that time, it was known that some potato, and peppers [23]. The first mentions of the intro - beans could have been “recently introduced,” such as the duction of common beans from the Americas are anec- “fagiuolo di Spagna” (classified at that time as P. multi - dotal. They refer to a donation of seeds from Charles V, florus) [3]. Similarly, indications of the type of beans are the Holy Roman Emperor, to Pope Clemente VII, born missing also in cookbooks [30–32]. The Middle East/ Giulio di Giuliano de’ Medici [24]. More likely, the intro- Asian origin of the common bean (P. vulgaris) was for- duction of common beans from the Americas might have mally questioned starting from the nineteenth century. been largely unrecorded, with multiple introductions Following the discovery of vessels containing common during time [25]. This is because Europeans recognized beans in Peruvian tombs of Ancón, in 1883 the Swiss bot- the common bean as a new type of bean, while potato and anist de Candolle correctly proposed that common bean tomato were considered exotic species. These were later (P. vulgaris) originates from the Americas, with the Euro- introduced into the local gastronomy because similar to (Afro)-Asiatic beans belonging to Dolichos (currently, other domestic toxic Solanaceae. Therefore, even after Vigna) genus [33]. Columbus voyages, the word “bean” may indicate Phase- olus spp. and Vigna/Dolichos spp. The study of paintings The diffusion of common bean after the Columbian and images in cookbooks and naturalist books has been exchange and impact on the culinary use of beans always considered useful also to examine social customs The transfer of common bean from the Americas to and food habits. The Italian painting “Il Mangiafagioli” Europe was in all probability associated with a genetic (The Bean Eater, 1584–1585) by Annibale Carracci most bottleneck, which reduced the diversity of the European likely shows a dish with black-eyed peas. On the other bean because of founder effect [34]. However, since its hand, the decoration of the Loggia of Villa Farnesina in introduction in the Old Continent, common bean has Rome (1519) by Giovanni da Udine, depicts around 200 experienced rapid diversification into a multitude of new botanical species, and includes domestic and introduced varieties. It has been suggested that Europe, most notably crops, such as the Three Sisters, and almost certainly the South-Western area, can be regarded as a secondary common bean. This is easily discernable from the broad diversification center for P. vulgaris [35], with variants beans in the frescoes. This artwork should be therefore that have not been documented in the Americas [36]. The considered the first European depiction of common bean factors that contribute to this adaptive radiation include [26]. The Italian botanist Pietro Mattioli (Matthiolus, the new environmental conditions, the different farming 1501–1578) wrote that beans were common throughout techniques (such as new rotations and planting time), and Italy and that they presented different colors (red, yellow, the multiple uses of the plants. Specifically, according to white) and seed patterns (speckled) [27]. This variability the stage of maturity, beans are grown to produce green Corrado Journal of Ethnic Foods (2022) 9:6 Page 4 of 9 or snap beans (consumed as fresh or processed pods), germplasm is characterized by a high morphological and green shell or fresh beans (full-sized seeds consumed as genetic diversity. The first systematic classification of the fresh), dry or dry shell beans (full-size seeds, dried and Phasulus vulgaris races in Italy is probably in the “Flora consumed only after processing). Additionally, green Napolitana” by Michele Tenore, founder and director of beans can be harvested at different stages and can come the “Real Orto Botanico” of Naples [42]. A larger system- in different sizes, from the small cylindrical pods avail - atic description was later performed by Orazio Comes, able globally in frozen bags or canned, to the larger flat - the Director of the “Istituto Superiore Agrario di Portici” tened and tender green beans with a fibrous suture that (Naples) [3]. In his work, thousands of local, national, is removed before cooking, sold fresh in local markets in and international P. vulgaris races were classified into Southern Italy and Greece. The green beans have always 472 groups, primarily according to the seed shape (com- been popular in Italy, and it was common in the warmest pressus = kidney shape; oblungus; ellipticus; sphaericus), area of Southern Italy to sow them in autumn, to harvest color pattern (from uniform to variegated) and color, the pods before Christmas. It is probably no coincidence which presented a remarkable variability. Comes also that Italian cookbooks more often refer to green beans discussed that many cultivated races could be the result for Phaseolus spp. [23], probably because many archeo- of hybridization and that “races are local, and therefore chefs also aimed to highlight the possible consequences they maintain their traits with adequate stability only for health of the various ingredients. Under this perspec- in the environment in which they are produced” [3]. In tive, dry beans have always been considered one of the Southern Italy, common bean is probably the horticul- toughest to digest and gassier legumes [30]. tural crop with the highest number of landraces [43, 44]. Before the Columbian exchange, the scarlet runner Different works based on morphological and DNA-based bean (P. coccineus L.) and the Lima bean (P. lunatus L.) analyses have illustrated the large diversity and availabil- were the species belonging to the genus Phaseolus that ity of common bean landraces in regions of Central and were used to produce fagioli in Italy. Today, only very Southern Italy, such as Lazio [45], Abruzzo [46], Cam- few varieties of P. coccineus are cultivated [37], typically pania [47], Basilicata [48], Apulia [49], Calabria [50], in hillsides and mountainous areas in Central and North- and Sicily [41] (Fig. 1). Currently, many landraces appear ern Italy, usually 400–500  m a.s.l. Cowpea has virtually severely endangered and at risk of extinction due to the disappeared in Italy. It has been quickly displaced by advanced age of the farmers, the abandonment of small Phaseolus spp. soon after their introduction in Europe, labor-intensive family farms, and the migratory pattern because of higher yield with similar agronomic practices. of peoples from rural villages. In some areas of the Campania region, Vigna unguicu- lata had the folk name of "fagiolo comune" (common Gastronomic history of beans in Italy bean) [16], an indication of its past diffusion. Already in Legumes are the main protein source of the Mediter- the’80, cowpea cultivation in the Campania, Apulia, and ranean diet [51]. Since Greco-Roman times, beans Basilicata regions was limited to family gardens, mainly were widely consumed especially by the lower classes. for domestic consumption of green pods [16]. Cowpea Convincing evidence of the popular use of beans dur- almost completely disappeared, being mainly present, on ing Roman times comes from the Pompeii excavation. limited acreage, in some areas of the Campania (e.g., Sele Beans and onions were the last suppers of brothel’s Valley and Alburni mountain range) and Apulia regions workers [3]. The popularity of beans in Southern Italy is [38]. Lupins are perhaps mostly known because of the related also to the ample presence of the so-called agro- tragic business venture described in the “Malavoglia,” the towns (large villages in a rural environment where most best-known novel by Giovanni Verga [39]. In Italy, they workers are employed seasonally) [52] and more gen- are almost exclusively sold pickled in brine, as a take- erally, by the presence of an agricultural-based society away snack in street markets and village fairs. Lupins are, in which the cultivated land was owned and managed therefore, the main and probably, the only contemporary by noblemen [53]. The Medieval society was highly expression of street food related to legumes in Italy. stratified, and the fresh game was almost exclusively reserved for powerful and well-differentiated social Diversity of common bean and the development groups. In the Middle Ages, wheat-cantered agriculture of landraces was dominant in Italy. Regarding the cultivated spe- The variety of climate systems in Italy and the local selec - cies, cereal growing in Southern Italy is aligned with tion applied by farmers generated many bean landraces. the classical tradition based on wheat, for human con- This is also due to the small acreages dedicated to this sumption, and barley, mainly for animals, in contrast plant species, usually present in remote, relatively iso- to a more widespread wheat-rye-oats cultivation in the lated rural villages or islands [40, 41]. The Italian bean continent [54]. Bread, salt pork, and beans were the C orrado Journal of Ethnic Foods (2022) 9:6 Page 5 of 9 Fig. 1 An example of the range of morphological diversity of the common been seeds in the landraces of the Campania region in terms of seed size, color and pattern. A: “ Tondino bianco”; B: “Occhio Nero”; C: “Dente di morto”; D: “a formella”; E: “Zolfariello”; F: “della Regina (piccolo)”; G: “Screziato”; H: “della Regina”; J: “Mustaciello.” Scale bar: 1 cm core of the peasants and workers meals [55]. Legumes maize and rice continued to be more popular in North- remained an important source of protein in Southern ern Italy, durum wheat pasta became the central food Italy also because bovines were mainly used as work in Southern Italy, first in urban areas and then in rural animals and less diffused compared to Northern Italy, settings [61]. This area remained characterized by the mainly due to the need for pastures and adequate rain- wide consumption of vegetable soups made mainly of fall. Starting from the Late Middle Ages, wheat increas- salty dry bread, common or broad beans, and bulbous ingly assumed the role of the central element in the plants (onion and/or garlic) [62]. The invention of can - Italian diet in the form of bread, while small-seeded ning in the nineteenth century, revolutionized the use cereals and legumes had a complementary role. As also of common bean in the Western world, making it quick other civilizations, Romans were making bread includ- to prepare and convenient to store [23]. However, can- ing fava bean flour as well as different cereals, such as ning beans had limited importance in Italy and espe- foxtail millet [56]. This custom was common until the cially in the rural area of the South, where both the Middle Ages, yielding a dark colored bread, heavy to warmer and drier climate and the presence of a wealth digest and with a bitter taste, mainly because of the of local varieties did not create a strong demand for use of legumes [57]. In Italy, since the eighth century, canned beans. In Southern Italy, the food industry was there is evidence of pulmentaria, dishes of a very vari- mostly motivated by processing fresh, easily perishable able recipe that can be considered similar to polenta. tomatoes, such as the “San Marzano.” After the Italian Pulmentaria are made with fava beans as the main Unification in the nineteenth century, the lack of effec - ingredient, roughly or finely crushed to flour [58]. tive agrarian reforms, heavy taxes, and other economic Even after the transformations affecting the human measures implemented to boost northern industry diet after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the (e.g., rail and heavy industry) were the main reasons fava bean remained the most important legume in vir- for an economic crisis that associated with large-scale tually all Italian regions [59]. Other legumes, such as migration and abandonment of rural territories and vetches and grass pea, assumed importance depend- traditions in Southern Italy [63, 64]. During the fascist ing on the areas. For example, in Northern Italy, the regime, common beans gained importance due to the use of broad beans for human consumption gradually progressive diplomatic isolation of Italy. Fascist food decreased with the diffusion of maize [60]. The decline policies were based on self-sufficiency (autarchia ) and of dried broad beans in Southern Italy was therefore alimentary sovereignty [65]. The ideal Italian diet was much more limited. In the eighteenth century, while with little animal proteins and based on carbohydrates Corrado Journal of Ethnic Foods (2022) 9:6 Page 6 of 9 (pasta and bread) supplemented with legumes, avail- stored (e.g., buried in pots underneath the soil) as able vegetables, olive oil, fresh fruit (mainly citrus), and insurance against even harder times. wine. However, the nutrition levels remained substand- After WWII, the cultivated area of P. vulgaris peaked ard both as calorie and protein intake for much of the during the’50 and then, severely declined (Fig.  2). Dry lower class, and in the later period of the fascist regime, beans represented almost ¾ of the area dedicated to also for the middle and upper classes [66]. Potatoes, legumes [67]. The sharpest reduction in the cultivation common bean and (savoy) cabbage represented the occurred during the so-called Miracolo Italiano (the main subsistence cultivations for autumn–winter sea- Italian economic boom of the’60) when a significant sons. During the Second World War, the availability of part of the Italian population experienced a shift from a meat proteins strongly diminished and oral tradition rural society to an urban, modern industrial society with indicates that in the rural population of Southern Italy, more heterogeneous and less traditional cultural habits the imperishable, everlasting dry beans were carefully [68, 69]. Since 1989, the area cultivated for green beans Fig. 2 Trends in the cultivation of dry beans and common beans in Italy after the World War Two. Source: FAOSTAT. (A): Harvested area (ha) cultivated with common beans (blue dots) and dry beans (orange dots). (B): Production (tonnes) of dry beans (blue dots) and dry beans (orange dots) C orrado Journal of Ethnic Foods (2022) 9:6 Page 7 of 9 exceeded the one for dry beans. Green beans are mainly or PGI label [37]. In addition, there has been a worldwide cultivated for their industrial transformation. Nowadays, increased appreciation of the heart-healthy Mediterra- the Italian production of common beans is too hetero- nean diet and more generally, larger attention to healthy geneous in terms of germplasm and supply to meet the eating, factors that have led to the rediscovery of legumes technological requirements of the food processing indus- as a protein source [76]. These trends increase the possi - try. While landraces have a high value to preserve genetic bility that local common beans will be of wider interest in variability and possibly organoleptic qualities, the local Italy as well as in other high-income countries. production cannot currently suit the demand of the food industry. Moreover, Italy lacks highly specialized produc- tion areas that can benefit a canning industry. Conclusion Beans, and more generally legumes, have been culti- vated and eaten as an emblem of rustic simplicity. The Status and perspectives of the common bean consumption of common beans cannot be realistically in Italy expanded to a level that can shift current agricultural According to Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), trends in Italy, which is now a heavy importer (approx. Phaseolus vulgaris is the most important edible legume 90% of the total market), considering the globalization for direct consumption in the world (http:// www. fao. org/ of the food offer and industry. Interest in local landraces faost at/ en/, accessed May 2021). The cultivation is dis - is steadily growing, and this phenomenon relies on their tributed in the five continents and the most widespread cultural value. The popularity of specific landraces is varieties include black beans, white beans, pinto beans, linked to specific geographic areas and names, being and kidney beans. In Italy, professional pulse farming strongly connected with the rising gastronomy tourism currently involves faba bean, common bean, and pea. [77]. It is bizarre that today common bean landraces sell Lupin, chickpea, and lentil almost disappeared from cul- for a premium price and are valued by gastronomists, tivation and are found mainly in small farms. Common critics, food-bloggers, and alike. Nonetheless, the adop- bean cultivation has lost competitiveness in Italy and tion of a culinary element that typifies a rustic identity many EU countries mainly due to a decreasing price in for those who struggled to put food on the table appears the international market and to the larger availability of today a hidden gastronomic snobbery. The humble beans animal proteins [70]. Bean consumption is strongly iden- should be appreciated in a wider gastronomic and nutri- tified with a rural diet, even though P. vulgaris was prob- tional framework. Their long-term promotion cannot be ably consumed by wealthy people as an alternative to the limited to the idea of novelty and it should also include a more popular beans when introduced in Europe. Moreo- less ostentatious approach to cooking [78], a recognition ver, the evolution of high-input cropping systems (e.g., of a national gastronomic identity, and a dietary appre- diffusion of fertilizers, monoculture, and mechanical har - ciation that goes beyond the meat protein rivalry. vesting) limited the importance of legumes as nitrogen fixers in crop rotation or companion planting. The need Acknowledgements Not applicable. for uniformity is associated with the displacement of lan- draces with the highly uniform and stable contemporary Authors’ contributions varieties. Landraces have not bred to introgress resist- The author read and approved the final manuscript. ance genes that are normally present in contemporary Funding cultivars [71]. However, in different European countries This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the pub - such as Italy, Greece and Spain, common bean landraces lic, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors. still appear in fields especially for their strong link with Availability of data and materials rural gastronomy. In Italy, common bean landraces Not applicable. are associated with niche products in local markets, or amateur farming [37, 47]. They are receiving attention Declarations because of the consumers’ perception of authentic food Ethics approval and consent to participate of higher quality. Traditional agricultural products have Not applicable. a prominent role in supporting social, historical, and cul- tural identity and are becoming increasingly attractive Consent for publication Not applicable. [72]. For instance, efforts to improve the economic and environmental sustainability of both tourism and agricul- Competing interests ture in rural areas exploit local food [73, 74]. A good pro- The author declares that there are no competing financial interests or per - sonal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported portion of food festivals in Southern Italy are based on in this paper. common beans landraces [75], such as those with a PDO Corrado Journal of Ethnic Foods (2022) 9:6 Page 8 of 9 Received: 30 July 2021 Accepted: 8 February 2022 27. Mattioli PA. I Discorsi Di M. Pietro And. Matthioli Sanese ... Ne I Sei Libri Di Pedacio Dioscoride Anazarbeo Della Materia Medicinale (etc.): Valgrisi; 28. al-Áwwam YMI, Muhammad YB. Libro de Agricultura. Valladolid (Spain): Editorial Maxtor; 1878. 29. Mattioli PA. Il Dioscoride: Roffinello; 1549. References 30. Pisanelli B. Trattato della natura de’cibi, e del bere: Biblioteca Pubblica 1. Kislev ME, Bar-Yosef O. 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Food history and gastronomic traditions of beans in Italy

Journal of Ethnic Foods , Volume 9 (1) – Feb 21, 2022

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Abstract

Beans have been regarded primarily as a staple food for peasants, an affordable protein source for the mass, and a symbol of rustic simplicity by writers of all ages. Among legumes, the common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) probably plays the leading role in typifying these attributes. This species has also shown a remarkable ability to spread around the globe and to replace similar local species in virtually all the cuisines of the world, being nowadays embodied in the gastronomy of several countries. Attitudes toward beans are changing recently, and this legume is no longer considered as only the meat of the poor. This review aims to present a critical overview of the history and role in the gastronomy of common bean and other main cultivated legumes in Italy. After presenting the origin of common bean and its name, and the impact of its introduction to Europe, this contribution discusses the gastronomic history of beans in Italy and the role that socio-cultural differences have played in shaping the use of beans, the conservation of landraces, and food diversity. Finally, perspectives are discussed considering the recent trends in gastronomy and food tourism. Keywords: Common bean, Phaseolus vulgaris, Landraces, Food, Culinary traditions “Beans, on the contrary, produce urine and are fattening, two very good the word “bean” has been used liberally, without a spe- things. But they induce bad dreams.” cific botanical connotation, as is still the case today. For example, in the epic poem Iliad [2], the oldest surviving work of Greek literature, the “dark fava beans” (κύαμοι Severinus the herbalist μελανόχροες) have been translated sometimes as “dark (common) bean.” Beans are described in ancient Greek (The name of the rose, Umberto Eco) under the name of dolichos (e.g., by Theophrastus, the father of botany) and fasiolos (e.g., by Dioscorides). The The origin of the name in the Western culture corresponding Latin words are faseolis (cf. Caelius Api- and of the common bean cius, De Re Coquinaria 8.6.1.2) and phaselus/faselus (cf. The cultivation of legumes goes back to the Neolithic Age Publius Vergilius Maro, Georgica 1.227; L. Iunius Mod- and the dawn of agriculture [1]. Beans likely became an eratus Columella, De Re Rustica 2.7.1.2, 2.10.4.3, 2.10.4.8, integral part of the human diet with the development of 10.1.1.377, and 11.2.75.5). Due to the similarity of the agricultural techniques such as irrigation and companion name, the bean was also considered to have been intro- planting, considering the indeterminate climbing growth duced to Rome from the Greek-Roman city of Phaselis, habit of the species. Beans are already cited in the Old in ancient Lycia, hence the name for the genus [3]. It has Testament of the Holy Bible (cf. Ezekiel, 4,9). However, been also proposed that the word phaselus comes from the ancient Greek phaselus (φασόλι in modern Greek), a light sailing boat with a bean-shaped hull [4]. Phaselus *Correspondence: giacorra@unina.it Department of Agricultural Sciences, Federico II University of Naples, is also often used in Latin to indicate a yacht [5]. None- Naples, Italy theless, is also conceivable that beans were likely known © The Author(s) 2022. Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http:// creat iveco mmons. org/ licen ses/ by/4. 0/. Corrado Journal of Ethnic Foods (2022) 9:6 Page 2 of 9 by the Greek civilization well before the development of Legumes before the introduction of the common that kind of vessel. The species name derives from the bean in Europe fact that beans have been always considered an ordinary Common bean is an introduced crop for Europeans and and plebeian food, hence “vulgaris” (of the mass) [6]. The the “traditional bean” in Italy, as well as in many Mediter- Roman historian Suetonius, to underline the avarice of ranean countries, was the cowpea (Vigna unguiculata L. the emperor Galba, reports that he rewarded his zealous Walp) [16]. This species was formerly classified under the and diligent accountant with a dish of legumes (cf. Gaius genus Dolichos. The distinctive trait of the cowpea seeds Suetonius Tranquillus, De Vita Caesarum, Gal.12.3.4). is the presence of a dark spot circling the hilum, which The words legume and pulse have Latin roots too. The originated both the common name black-eyed pea and former derives from the verb lĕgo meaning to collect, the old botanical name D. melanophtalmus DC. Cowpea to seize, but also to extract, to remove. Leguminibus was probably domesticated in West Africa [17]. (plural of legumen) were probably all sorts of grains in Most of the information on beans in Italy in ancient pods whose seeds are collected inside them. The word times comes from the Greco-Roman world. Regardless of pulse has an interesting origin, coming from the ancient local diversity, the relatively uniform geo-morphological Roman dish puls. The puls is obtained by mixing the flour and climatic features of the Mediterranean basin deter- of some cereals with hot water, milk (when available), mined the emergence, especially along the coasts, of set- and other ingredients such as wine, pig’s fat and fagots, tlements and cultures with similar primary productions. crushed pepper, and salt, to give a final product like an Specifically, the Aegean area (i.e., the Greek peninsula, emmer porridge [7]. It was also common, for instance for the Aegean islands, and the Anatolian coasts) on one legionaries, to add legumes (as a complementary source side, and the Tyrrhenian-Ionian one (the Magna Graecia) of essential amino acids) and seasonal vegetables to puls on the other, constitute a sufficiently uniform cultural [8]. area to allow a unitary treatment. Literature and schol- In Mexico, archaeological studies have traced the ori- arly writing indicated that the legumes cultivated in these gin of common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) to more areas were chickpeas (Cicer arietinumI L.), fava beans than 7,000  years ago [9, 10]. Archaeological remains do (Vicia faba L.), lentils (Lens culinaris Medikus), peas not show evidence of wild beans, suggesting that bean (Pisum sativum L.), lupins (Lupin spp.), as well as Vigna cultivation was already well established and diffused in unguicolata (see for instance L. Iunius Moderatus Colu- several parts of the American continent. The American mella, De Re Rustica 2.7.1.2). The cowpea was certainly continent is considered the center where wild common present in Italy since the Greco-Roman times [18] as also bean originated and spread. Nonetheless, the precise evidenced in the “De re coquinaria” [19]. Chickpeas and location of the center of origin is still debated. It is cur- fava beans could be grown not only in horti but also in rently believed that the domestication of common bean open fields, given their very wide use. In Italy, these leg - independently occurred in Mexico and Southern Andes umes could be worked with bovine towed plowing [20]. nearly 8000 years ago [11, 12]. For lower classes and small farms, horticulture was as Common beans were diffused in North, Central, and important if not more important than cereal growing. South America in the Pre-Columbian era. It is well docu- A 1/2-hectare plot could not provide enough resources mented that the “Three Sisters” (winter squash, maize, for a plowing animal and legumes were therefore a key and bean) were at the core of the cropping systems of resource of proteins and calories, essential to comple- many Native American agricultural tribes [13]. The beans ment cereals in a mostly vegetarian diet. Moreover, leg- provide nitrogen compounds to the other plants by fix - umes, as many other horticultural products, did not ing nitrogen, the corn provides stalks for the climbing require processing, such as threshing and grinding for bean, and the squash a protective shelter to keep the soil cereals, or pressing and milling for olive oil. A difference moist and to contain weeds. At the time of the discov- between Classic Greek and Imperial Rome was that in ery of the Americas, Aztec agriculture was technically Attica, vegetable gardens were confined to the suburban advanced (e.g., terraced farming, irrigation systems, chi- area by the availability of freshwater for irrigation, while nampas, etc.) and the cuisine was largely based on maize around Rome, starting from the first century AD, a fruit and common bean. Early explorers such as Columbus and vegetable "belt" consisting of small plots of about one and Verrazzano mentioned beans (red and white) and hectare surrounded the Eternal City for a radius of few the importance of pulse crops for local populations [14]. kilometers [20]. The fall of the Roman Empire coincided Based on the Codex Mendoza, it has been estimated that with a reduction, if not the end, of imports of exotic Montezuma received 5000 tons of beans per year as trib- foods, such as palm date and pepper, yet a wealth of cere- ute, an indirect evidence of the large diffusion and cen - als and legumes (e.g., field bean, lentils, grass peas) indi - trality of this cultivation [15]. cated the predominant role of these plants in the diet of C orrado Journal of Ethnic Foods (2022) 9:6 Page 3 of 9 peasants [21]. In Italy, the fava bean was the most impor- has been considered indirect proof of the exotic origin tant legume until the Renaissance. The main reasons of the plant material. However, a similar variability in were the ability to grow without stacks or support and its color and size was also mentioned by Ibn al-Áwwam, the adaptability to a colder climate. The fava bean is generally Arab agronomist of the twelfth century [28]. Naturalists’ eaten raw, although one of the most difficult to digest, accounts also suffer from the fact that the word “bean” and therefore was also employed as a source of proteins has not always been accompanied by a precise morpho- for horses. In the Middle Ages, legumes were an integral logical description or illustration that allows distinguish- part of the cultivation order, and they were promoted to ing what is now known as P. vulgaris from other species the rank of small-grain cereals. For instance, the word of the same or different genera. For instance, some natu - grains include both cereals and legumes in deeds and ralists also attributed some beans to Smilax hortensis. contracts. Fava bean had a dominant role in Italy, often This species (lo Smilace de’ gli orti) was described into being separated or explicitly mentioned in the polyptychs the “Dioscoride” by the Mattioli as producing the so- (polittici) and other documents of the early Middle Ages called fagioli turcheschi (an archaic adjective that can be [22]. The reason should not be sought only in the food translated as “with many colors” or “colorful”) [29], and value of the seeds, but also in the agronomic value that by the German botanist Fuchs (Fuchsius, 1501–1566) as the plant, especially regarding the possibility of autumn producing the “fagiouli italiani” (the Italian beans) [3]. sowing and the beneficial effect for soil fertility in a grain- It is believed that Fuchs left the first depiction of com - centered agriculture. mon bean in a European herbal [25]. However, he does not mention its possible overseas origin or the word pha- First evidence of the common bean in Italy seolus. Although these botanists lived in the XVI century, After the discovery of the Americas, common beans it is not certain that they specifically refer to P. vulgaris, became in a relatively short time a staple food, if com- while Mattioli identifies other introduced crops, such as pared to other introduced crops such as maize, tomato, tomato and pepper. At that time, it was known that some potato, and peppers [23]. The first mentions of the intro - beans could have been “recently introduced,” such as the duction of common beans from the Americas are anec- “fagiuolo di Spagna” (classified at that time as P. multi - dotal. They refer to a donation of seeds from Charles V, florus) [3]. Similarly, indications of the type of beans are the Holy Roman Emperor, to Pope Clemente VII, born missing also in cookbooks [30–32]. The Middle East/ Giulio di Giuliano de’ Medici [24]. More likely, the intro- Asian origin of the common bean (P. vulgaris) was for- duction of common beans from the Americas might have mally questioned starting from the nineteenth century. been largely unrecorded, with multiple introductions Following the discovery of vessels containing common during time [25]. This is because Europeans recognized beans in Peruvian tombs of Ancón, in 1883 the Swiss bot- the common bean as a new type of bean, while potato and anist de Candolle correctly proposed that common bean tomato were considered exotic species. These were later (P. vulgaris) originates from the Americas, with the Euro- introduced into the local gastronomy because similar to (Afro)-Asiatic beans belonging to Dolichos (currently, other domestic toxic Solanaceae. Therefore, even after Vigna) genus [33]. Columbus voyages, the word “bean” may indicate Phase- olus spp. and Vigna/Dolichos spp. The study of paintings The diffusion of common bean after the Columbian and images in cookbooks and naturalist books has been exchange and impact on the culinary use of beans always considered useful also to examine social customs The transfer of common bean from the Americas to and food habits. The Italian painting “Il Mangiafagioli” Europe was in all probability associated with a genetic (The Bean Eater, 1584–1585) by Annibale Carracci most bottleneck, which reduced the diversity of the European likely shows a dish with black-eyed peas. On the other bean because of founder effect [34]. However, since its hand, the decoration of the Loggia of Villa Farnesina in introduction in the Old Continent, common bean has Rome (1519) by Giovanni da Udine, depicts around 200 experienced rapid diversification into a multitude of new botanical species, and includes domestic and introduced varieties. It has been suggested that Europe, most notably crops, such as the Three Sisters, and almost certainly the South-Western area, can be regarded as a secondary common bean. This is easily discernable from the broad diversification center for P. vulgaris [35], with variants beans in the frescoes. This artwork should be therefore that have not been documented in the Americas [36]. The considered the first European depiction of common bean factors that contribute to this adaptive radiation include [26]. The Italian botanist Pietro Mattioli (Matthiolus, the new environmental conditions, the different farming 1501–1578) wrote that beans were common throughout techniques (such as new rotations and planting time), and Italy and that they presented different colors (red, yellow, the multiple uses of the plants. Specifically, according to white) and seed patterns (speckled) [27]. This variability the stage of maturity, beans are grown to produce green Corrado Journal of Ethnic Foods (2022) 9:6 Page 4 of 9 or snap beans (consumed as fresh or processed pods), germplasm is characterized by a high morphological and green shell or fresh beans (full-sized seeds consumed as genetic diversity. The first systematic classification of the fresh), dry or dry shell beans (full-size seeds, dried and Phasulus vulgaris races in Italy is probably in the “Flora consumed only after processing). Additionally, green Napolitana” by Michele Tenore, founder and director of beans can be harvested at different stages and can come the “Real Orto Botanico” of Naples [42]. A larger system- in different sizes, from the small cylindrical pods avail - atic description was later performed by Orazio Comes, able globally in frozen bags or canned, to the larger flat - the Director of the “Istituto Superiore Agrario di Portici” tened and tender green beans with a fibrous suture that (Naples) [3]. In his work, thousands of local, national, is removed before cooking, sold fresh in local markets in and international P. vulgaris races were classified into Southern Italy and Greece. The green beans have always 472 groups, primarily according to the seed shape (com- been popular in Italy, and it was common in the warmest pressus = kidney shape; oblungus; ellipticus; sphaericus), area of Southern Italy to sow them in autumn, to harvest color pattern (from uniform to variegated) and color, the pods before Christmas. It is probably no coincidence which presented a remarkable variability. Comes also that Italian cookbooks more often refer to green beans discussed that many cultivated races could be the result for Phaseolus spp. [23], probably because many archeo- of hybridization and that “races are local, and therefore chefs also aimed to highlight the possible consequences they maintain their traits with adequate stability only for health of the various ingredients. Under this perspec- in the environment in which they are produced” [3]. In tive, dry beans have always been considered one of the Southern Italy, common bean is probably the horticul- toughest to digest and gassier legumes [30]. tural crop with the highest number of landraces [43, 44]. Before the Columbian exchange, the scarlet runner Different works based on morphological and DNA-based bean (P. coccineus L.) and the Lima bean (P. lunatus L.) analyses have illustrated the large diversity and availabil- were the species belonging to the genus Phaseolus that ity of common bean landraces in regions of Central and were used to produce fagioli in Italy. Today, only very Southern Italy, such as Lazio [45], Abruzzo [46], Cam- few varieties of P. coccineus are cultivated [37], typically pania [47], Basilicata [48], Apulia [49], Calabria [50], in hillsides and mountainous areas in Central and North- and Sicily [41] (Fig. 1). Currently, many landraces appear ern Italy, usually 400–500  m a.s.l. Cowpea has virtually severely endangered and at risk of extinction due to the disappeared in Italy. It has been quickly displaced by advanced age of the farmers, the abandonment of small Phaseolus spp. soon after their introduction in Europe, labor-intensive family farms, and the migratory pattern because of higher yield with similar agronomic practices. of peoples from rural villages. In some areas of the Campania region, Vigna unguicu- lata had the folk name of "fagiolo comune" (common Gastronomic history of beans in Italy bean) [16], an indication of its past diffusion. Already in Legumes are the main protein source of the Mediter- the’80, cowpea cultivation in the Campania, Apulia, and ranean diet [51]. Since Greco-Roman times, beans Basilicata regions was limited to family gardens, mainly were widely consumed especially by the lower classes. for domestic consumption of green pods [16]. Cowpea Convincing evidence of the popular use of beans dur- almost completely disappeared, being mainly present, on ing Roman times comes from the Pompeii excavation. limited acreage, in some areas of the Campania (e.g., Sele Beans and onions were the last suppers of brothel’s Valley and Alburni mountain range) and Apulia regions workers [3]. The popularity of beans in Southern Italy is [38]. Lupins are perhaps mostly known because of the related also to the ample presence of the so-called agro- tragic business venture described in the “Malavoglia,” the towns (large villages in a rural environment where most best-known novel by Giovanni Verga [39]. In Italy, they workers are employed seasonally) [52] and more gen- are almost exclusively sold pickled in brine, as a take- erally, by the presence of an agricultural-based society away snack in street markets and village fairs. Lupins are, in which the cultivated land was owned and managed therefore, the main and probably, the only contemporary by noblemen [53]. The Medieval society was highly expression of street food related to legumes in Italy. stratified, and the fresh game was almost exclusively reserved for powerful and well-differentiated social Diversity of common bean and the development groups. In the Middle Ages, wheat-cantered agriculture of landraces was dominant in Italy. Regarding the cultivated spe- The variety of climate systems in Italy and the local selec - cies, cereal growing in Southern Italy is aligned with tion applied by farmers generated many bean landraces. the classical tradition based on wheat, for human con- This is also due to the small acreages dedicated to this sumption, and barley, mainly for animals, in contrast plant species, usually present in remote, relatively iso- to a more widespread wheat-rye-oats cultivation in the lated rural villages or islands [40, 41]. The Italian bean continent [54]. Bread, salt pork, and beans were the C orrado Journal of Ethnic Foods (2022) 9:6 Page 5 of 9 Fig. 1 An example of the range of morphological diversity of the common been seeds in the landraces of the Campania region in terms of seed size, color and pattern. A: “ Tondino bianco”; B: “Occhio Nero”; C: “Dente di morto”; D: “a formella”; E: “Zolfariello”; F: “della Regina (piccolo)”; G: “Screziato”; H: “della Regina”; J: “Mustaciello.” Scale bar: 1 cm core of the peasants and workers meals [55]. Legumes maize and rice continued to be more popular in North- remained an important source of protein in Southern ern Italy, durum wheat pasta became the central food Italy also because bovines were mainly used as work in Southern Italy, first in urban areas and then in rural animals and less diffused compared to Northern Italy, settings [61]. This area remained characterized by the mainly due to the need for pastures and adequate rain- wide consumption of vegetable soups made mainly of fall. Starting from the Late Middle Ages, wheat increas- salty dry bread, common or broad beans, and bulbous ingly assumed the role of the central element in the plants (onion and/or garlic) [62]. The invention of can - Italian diet in the form of bread, while small-seeded ning in the nineteenth century, revolutionized the use cereals and legumes had a complementary role. As also of common bean in the Western world, making it quick other civilizations, Romans were making bread includ- to prepare and convenient to store [23]. However, can- ing fava bean flour as well as different cereals, such as ning beans had limited importance in Italy and espe- foxtail millet [56]. This custom was common until the cially in the rural area of the South, where both the Middle Ages, yielding a dark colored bread, heavy to warmer and drier climate and the presence of a wealth digest and with a bitter taste, mainly because of the of local varieties did not create a strong demand for use of legumes [57]. In Italy, since the eighth century, canned beans. In Southern Italy, the food industry was there is evidence of pulmentaria, dishes of a very vari- mostly motivated by processing fresh, easily perishable able recipe that can be considered similar to polenta. tomatoes, such as the “San Marzano.” After the Italian Pulmentaria are made with fava beans as the main Unification in the nineteenth century, the lack of effec - ingredient, roughly or finely crushed to flour [58]. tive agrarian reforms, heavy taxes, and other economic Even after the transformations affecting the human measures implemented to boost northern industry diet after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the (e.g., rail and heavy industry) were the main reasons fava bean remained the most important legume in vir- for an economic crisis that associated with large-scale tually all Italian regions [59]. Other legumes, such as migration and abandonment of rural territories and vetches and grass pea, assumed importance depend- traditions in Southern Italy [63, 64]. During the fascist ing on the areas. For example, in Northern Italy, the regime, common beans gained importance due to the use of broad beans for human consumption gradually progressive diplomatic isolation of Italy. Fascist food decreased with the diffusion of maize [60]. The decline policies were based on self-sufficiency (autarchia ) and of dried broad beans in Southern Italy was therefore alimentary sovereignty [65]. The ideal Italian diet was much more limited. In the eighteenth century, while with little animal proteins and based on carbohydrates Corrado Journal of Ethnic Foods (2022) 9:6 Page 6 of 9 (pasta and bread) supplemented with legumes, avail- stored (e.g., buried in pots underneath the soil) as able vegetables, olive oil, fresh fruit (mainly citrus), and insurance against even harder times. wine. However, the nutrition levels remained substand- After WWII, the cultivated area of P. vulgaris peaked ard both as calorie and protein intake for much of the during the’50 and then, severely declined (Fig.  2). Dry lower class, and in the later period of the fascist regime, beans represented almost ¾ of the area dedicated to also for the middle and upper classes [66]. Potatoes, legumes [67]. The sharpest reduction in the cultivation common bean and (savoy) cabbage represented the occurred during the so-called Miracolo Italiano (the main subsistence cultivations for autumn–winter sea- Italian economic boom of the’60) when a significant sons. During the Second World War, the availability of part of the Italian population experienced a shift from a meat proteins strongly diminished and oral tradition rural society to an urban, modern industrial society with indicates that in the rural population of Southern Italy, more heterogeneous and less traditional cultural habits the imperishable, everlasting dry beans were carefully [68, 69]. Since 1989, the area cultivated for green beans Fig. 2 Trends in the cultivation of dry beans and common beans in Italy after the World War Two. Source: FAOSTAT. (A): Harvested area (ha) cultivated with common beans (blue dots) and dry beans (orange dots). (B): Production (tonnes) of dry beans (blue dots) and dry beans (orange dots) C orrado Journal of Ethnic Foods (2022) 9:6 Page 7 of 9 exceeded the one for dry beans. Green beans are mainly or PGI label [37]. In addition, there has been a worldwide cultivated for their industrial transformation. Nowadays, increased appreciation of the heart-healthy Mediterra- the Italian production of common beans is too hetero- nean diet and more generally, larger attention to healthy geneous in terms of germplasm and supply to meet the eating, factors that have led to the rediscovery of legumes technological requirements of the food processing indus- as a protein source [76]. These trends increase the possi - try. While landraces have a high value to preserve genetic bility that local common beans will be of wider interest in variability and possibly organoleptic qualities, the local Italy as well as in other high-income countries. production cannot currently suit the demand of the food industry. Moreover, Italy lacks highly specialized produc- tion areas that can benefit a canning industry. Conclusion Beans, and more generally legumes, have been culti- vated and eaten as an emblem of rustic simplicity. The Status and perspectives of the common bean consumption of common beans cannot be realistically in Italy expanded to a level that can shift current agricultural According to Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), trends in Italy, which is now a heavy importer (approx. Phaseolus vulgaris is the most important edible legume 90% of the total market), considering the globalization for direct consumption in the world (http:// www. fao. org/ of the food offer and industry. Interest in local landraces faost at/ en/, accessed May 2021). The cultivation is dis - is steadily growing, and this phenomenon relies on their tributed in the five continents and the most widespread cultural value. The popularity of specific landraces is varieties include black beans, white beans, pinto beans, linked to specific geographic areas and names, being and kidney beans. In Italy, professional pulse farming strongly connected with the rising gastronomy tourism currently involves faba bean, common bean, and pea. [77]. It is bizarre that today common bean landraces sell Lupin, chickpea, and lentil almost disappeared from cul- for a premium price and are valued by gastronomists, tivation and are found mainly in small farms. Common critics, food-bloggers, and alike. Nonetheless, the adop- bean cultivation has lost competitiveness in Italy and tion of a culinary element that typifies a rustic identity many EU countries mainly due to a decreasing price in for those who struggled to put food on the table appears the international market and to the larger availability of today a hidden gastronomic snobbery. The humble beans animal proteins [70]. Bean consumption is strongly iden- should be appreciated in a wider gastronomic and nutri- tified with a rural diet, even though P. vulgaris was prob- tional framework. Their long-term promotion cannot be ably consumed by wealthy people as an alternative to the limited to the idea of novelty and it should also include a more popular beans when introduced in Europe. Moreo- less ostentatious approach to cooking [78], a recognition ver, the evolution of high-input cropping systems (e.g., of a national gastronomic identity, and a dietary appre- diffusion of fertilizers, monoculture, and mechanical har - ciation that goes beyond the meat protein rivalry. vesting) limited the importance of legumes as nitrogen fixers in crop rotation or companion planting. The need Acknowledgements Not applicable. for uniformity is associated with the displacement of lan- draces with the highly uniform and stable contemporary Authors’ contributions varieties. Landraces have not bred to introgress resist- The author read and approved the final manuscript. ance genes that are normally present in contemporary Funding cultivars [71]. However, in different European countries This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the pub - such as Italy, Greece and Spain, common bean landraces lic, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors. still appear in fields especially for their strong link with Availability of data and materials rural gastronomy. In Italy, common bean landraces Not applicable. are associated with niche products in local markets, or amateur farming [37, 47]. They are receiving attention Declarations because of the consumers’ perception of authentic food Ethics approval and consent to participate of higher quality. Traditional agricultural products have Not applicable. a prominent role in supporting social, historical, and cul- tural identity and are becoming increasingly attractive Consent for publication Not applicable. [72]. For instance, efforts to improve the economic and environmental sustainability of both tourism and agricul- Competing interests ture in rural areas exploit local food [73, 74]. A good pro- The author declares that there are no competing financial interests or per - sonal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported portion of food festivals in Southern Italy are based on in this paper. common beans landraces [75], such as those with a PDO Corrado Journal of Ethnic Foods (2022) 9:6 Page 8 of 9 Received: 30 July 2021 Accepted: 8 February 2022 27. Mattioli PA. I Discorsi Di M. Pietro And. Matthioli Sanese ... Ne I Sei Libri Di Pedacio Dioscoride Anazarbeo Della Materia Medicinale (etc.): Valgrisi; 28. al-Áwwam YMI, Muhammad YB. Libro de Agricultura. Valladolid (Spain): Editorial Maxtor; 1878. 29. Mattioli PA. Il Dioscoride: Roffinello; 1549. References 30. Pisanelli B. Trattato della natura de’cibi, e del bere: Biblioteca Pubblica 1. Kislev ME, Bar-Yosef O. 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Journal

Journal of Ethnic FoodsSpringer Journals

Published: Feb 21, 2022

Keywords: Common bean; Phaseolus vulgaris; Landraces; Food; Culinary traditions

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