Castelluccio Lentils are : Heritage lentils grown in the Italian Apennines.
They are brownish-green lentils with thin skins. They are very small and light: 1,000 of these lentils weigh only 23 g (some estimates say 25 to 26 g.)
The lentils are named after Castelluccio, Umbria in the Apennine mountains of Italy. The area is surrounded by a peaty plateau. The farmers practice field rotation: lentils, cereals, and a year of rest.
The seed for the lentils is planted in April and May. The plants grow 8 to 16 inches (20 to 40 cm ) high, and are harvested at the end of July or beginning of August.
Though much of the harvesting is done by hand in order not to knock all the lentils to the ground, farmers are experimenting with special threshing machines that might be delicate enough to do it. The plants are harvested before the pods get too dry, so that all the seeds don’t easily jostle out of them, then laid out in the field to finish drying.
Then, they are threshed and sorted by hand.
To locals, they are sold in jute bags or in cardboard. For export and retail sale, they are packed in plastic bags of 250g, 500g or 1 kg.
Castelluccio Lentils sell in North America for about twice the price of ordinary lentils.
Castelluccio Lentils received their European PGI status on 13 June 1997. The PGI area is in the Apennines, centred in the Umbria region, down to the south of the Marche. The PGI is administered by the “Cooperativa della Lenticchia di Castellucio” in Norcia. The packaging on the lentils says, “Lenticchia di Castelluccio di Norcia – Indicazione Geografica Protetta.”
Castelluccio Lentils don’t need soaking before cooking, and as they are sold with their skin on, hold their shape during cooking.
Simmer in a generous quantity of water or stock for 20 minutes. If desired, add one or two peeled garlic leaves to the cooking liquid (then discard the cloves at the end of cooking.)
Don’t cook them until they are completely soft and squidgy; allow them to keep just a bit of “al dente” bite to them.
Classically, they are served with chunks of pork sausage in them.