Ancient grains of Sicily
Since ancient times, Sicily has always been a region rich in grain.
It is assumed to have been around since the 3rd millennium BC, as evidenced by the discovery of tools of daily life, a millstone and pestle, in the Neolithic village of Stentinello near Syracuse. The mythological tale of the abduction to Enna of Persephone, daughter of the goddess Ceres, ends with the gift of grain that Ceres made to the people, ensuring the sustenance and development of civilisation.
The different wheat crops give the Sicilian landscape incredible colours, which differ according to the variety of wheat, the time and place of sowing. Or even more different colours if the crops are grown on hilly, high or medium terrain, or in coastal areas.
The selection of varieties of ancient Sicilian wheat, the work of the Stazione Sperimentale di granicoltura (Experimental Station for Graniculture), the collection of samples that Ugo de Cillis classified, cataloguing the varieties of hard and soft wheat, leads to the description of the main biological and cultivation properties.
For a long time, the ancient grains grown in Sicily in the past remained only in the memory of our grandparents. Then, finally, far-sighted producers revived ancient Sicilian grains, selecting grain by grain, with innovative tools, before milling it in the ancient stone mills.
The flours produced today, unlike those of the past, are the synthesis of ancient gestures combined with innovative technological tools.
Ancient grains are generally processed by stone milling, producing a less refined flour than that made from modern wheat.
Among the most famous is Timilia or Tumminia wheat, an ancient Sicilian durum wheat with a dark caryopsis, already in use in Greek times.
It is a rare, prized wheat that is also very resistant to drought. This wheat is used to produce the famous black bread of Castelvetrano, a Slow Food presidium, rich in special properties, with a pleasant aroma of malt, almonds and toasted wheat.
Mallorca wheat is an ancient variety of soft white wheat, which has been cultivated in Sicily for centuries. It is very tall and is found in dry, arid soils. It is a special wheat for several reasons: flavour, nutritional properties, versatility of use and speed of cooking.
Russello wheat, which is very digestible and nutritious, is a wheat with a high ear, rising almost two metres above the ground, fragile, reddish in colour and cultivated in arid soils. This wheat is used to make a flour for many Sicilian products, from pasta to bread. Together with the well-known Tumminia wheat, it is one of the 50 or more types of ancient wheat that Sicily has to offer.
It is common to find pizzerias that use these delicious and prized ancient Sicilian grains:
you must try Perciasacchi, Senatore Cappelli, Bidì and many others.
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