The sacred legume ram’s head

The chickpea is a noble and popular food at the same time.
It belongs to history as well as the food culture of Pisa. It is said that in 1284 during the battle of the Meloria were captured by the Genoese and Pisan these were long kept prisoners in the holds of their ships so they would have starved.
Luck had it right, however, that the same holds, under them, there were piled sacks of chickpeas soaked with sea water to overcome the terrible pangs of hunger if they cibarono, thus escaping death. In honor of this rescue providential, a typical dish made with chickpeas, cecina precisely, was also called the gold of Pisa. The dish is simple: chickpea flour, water, salt and oil, all cooked in huge pans in ovens.
The chickpea (Cicer arietinum) is a legume of the oldest known. It seems to originate from two different wild species (C. reticulatum and C. echinospermum) in south-eastern Turkey. In some Hacilar excavations in Turkey have been found dating back some form of wild Cicer to 5000 BC in the Bronze Age (3300 BC) in Iraq have found evidence of cultivation. In Egypt even traces written record the presence of chickpeas in the Nile valley between 1580 and 1100 BC The term derives from the greek Cicer kikus which means strength, power, in all probability this was due to have aphrodisiac properties, and the general nutritional , attributed to the legume. At the time of Homer in Greece was called Erébintos Krios or with respect to the ram’s head: in fact the name first used by arietinum Columella, Pliny and resumed later by Linnaeus in his botanical classifications, it is most likely due to the shape of seed that seems to say, in fact, a ram’s head. The pulses from the ancient Romans had a high honor to give names to many noble families such as the Fabia gens (from faba beans), or the family of Calpurnia Pisoni known for his conspiracy against Nero.
Their name comes from Pisum, or peas, lentils we still Lentulus from whose family belonged to the consul of 58 BC that time he spent himself for the good friend that Cicero returned from exile. And finally the chickpeas, the argument now in question, namely Cicer: from this sacred legume took the name Cicero, the great and Arpino. For the gens Tullia, the family of Marcus Tullius, was considered an honor to be able to take as his cognomen to a plant so important. The plant has an erect stem about 40-60 cm high branched at the base, the aerial part of the plant is characterized by the presence of glandular hairs of a juice rich irritating because it is rich in oxalic acid and malic acid.
The flowers are white or pink or purple.
The fruits are legumes short, swollen and reddish containing two or three legumi.Il chickpea is the third largest in the world among grain legumes after soybean and bean, with a production of about 9 million tonnes and that is the continent most affected ‘Asia with 91% of world production. In Europe, the cultivation is started in the fall of 1950, in Italy for over 110 thousand hectares in 1950 it came to little more than three thousand between ’92 and ’96 to go up to over 4 thousand in ’99. This small rise in the revaluation has to be framed in terms of nutrition, food plant forgotten, just as legumes. The reputation which the second chick was a food that can give strength and power, and from this he drew the name means sinking roots in the truth: in fact, the chickpea is a seed rich in nutrients excellent. It contains 63% carbohydrates and fiber, about 20-25% protein, and more calcium, phosphorus, iron, vitamins and essential amino acids such as thiamine, riboflavin and tryptophan. All items can guarantee life in extreme conditions, as happened in illo tempore, to our Pisan prisoners mentioned above. The versatility of chickpea is demonstrated by the multiple uses that can be done. Meanwhile you can start from the top of the green plant that can be eaten boiled like normal spinach (it is a custom much used in India). Decoctions obtained from the leaves is refreshing. A curiosity: while, as we are seeing, even as parts of the plant shoots and leaves are suitable for human consumption, the wealth of organic acids in the plant itself limits its use as animal fodder, straw is used especially as a litter box, mixed to cereal straw. It can be consumed as it is when it is green, freshly harvested, they typically consume raw as a snack (maybe not so much nowadays, thanks to the diverse offerings of tasty confectionery and heavy), and dried. Dried can be consumed as they are peeled as cotyledons, he soon gets a coffee substitute, or reduce it to flour. The flour mixed with barley flour gives the so-called farinella. The same flour mixed with other flours, such as peanut or sesame oil, is used for the preparation of balanced food, which allows the mixture to increase the biological value of pea, because despite having some essential fatty acids is deficient in methionine and tryptophan. Again with the flour obtained from the name of the dishes are similar but different from region to region, such as our cecina, or fritter in Palermo, or porridge in Piedmont. It is interesting to note that the chickpea germinated be able to double its content of vitamin C compared with chickpeas dormant and can be used in cases of vitamin deficiency: it could be defined, in this case, a natural supplement. Recently there has been talk of a beneficial aspect resulting from a diet of chickpeas, which is a cholesterol-lowering effect. This effect can be "easily neutralized" by adding ingredients to the butter or other animal preparations capable of raising cholesterol.

George and Catherine Calabrese, professor of dietetics at the Catholic University of Piacenza catering and food technology

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