also known as the fava or faba bean
Castiglione D'Asti, Municipality of Asti, Piedmonte
Continuing a tradition now over 820 years old, this celebration, traditionally held on 2nd January - the feast day of San Defendente - each year, marks events that took place long ago, ending a long dispute between the Church and some local lords concerning a concession to collect tax on their land.
In 1200, a local man Guglielmo Baldissero di Castiglione, undertook to pay part of the compensation owed by the Church to these lords on condition that, after his death, every year 'to redeem his soul and that of his predecessors' a mass was celebrated for him and his relatives and that the poor should be given a plate of beans. The original text specified 'et minam unam leguminum pauperibus erogare' - that a 'heme' of legumes (an ancient unit of measurement that corresponds to a volume of about 20 litres) should be given.
The beans eaten in the 13th C would have been broad (also known as fava beans), native to the Mediterranean region. Beans such as runner beans, french, kidney or haricot beans and butter or lima beans belonging to the genus Phaseolus weren't introduced to Europe until post-Columbian times.
Today the bean dish is represented by the ligére or legume soup (also containing pigs' trotters and pork rind), coordinated by the 'pro loco' La Castiglioese and cooked in several large cauldrons from early in the morning.
It's distribution is preceded by Mass, a costumed parade with music and a historical re-enactment, followed by the blessing of the beans.
In 2020 600 kg of cooked legumes - a mixture of beans and some chickpeas (Cicer arietinum - one of the world's most important pulses, domesticated in the Middle East) were distributed.
Normally attracting hundreds of people, with several thousand portions of bean soup served, the 2021 celebration was cancelled because of the pandemic - the first time in its long history that it has been interrupted.
For more about BEANS and the resurgence of interest in them because of their health and environmental benefits, as championed also by the Slow Food movement, see:
and the Italian 'Slow Beans' movement - a network of legume producers working to safeguard legumes and promote their consumption:
The movement also celebrates the “Fagioliadi” described as a semi-serious competition between dishes based on legumes prepared by their producers. Allowing local growers to showcase their knowledge and passion, the first contest was organized in 2010 in Tuscany in Capannori by the Lucca Compitese Orti Lucchesi.
A member of the Leguminosae (also known as Fabaceae) family of peas and beans, the broad bean has long history of cultivation and has formed part of the eastern Mediterranean along with peas, chickpeas and lentils for thousands of years. It is thought to have originated in Western Asia some time between 7,000 - 4,000 BCE, spreading from there to Europe, Africa and central Asia. A hardy plant up to 2 m tall, that is easy to cultivate, it is able to overwinter and withstand harsh, cold climates. Fixing nitrogen drawn from the air into the soil as it grows, by means of a symbiotic relationship with bacteria which live in the nodules of its roots, the beans which develop from its scented flowers have a high protein content and are very nutritious. Broad beans are often sown as cover crops, helping to prevent erosion.
See: Plants of the World Online: