Cicerchia (Indian Pea)

This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)

Cicerchia (Lathyrus sativus) is a little-known legume produced in the Marche, Molise, and Abruzzo Regions. Called lathiros in Greek and cicerula in Latin, Indian pea comes the Middle East, in particular from a herbaceous plant with an annual cycle, very similar to that of chickpeas.

During the Renaissance, it was very widespread and part of the nobles’ diet (as also often mentioned in important gastronomic textbooks). In more recent times, it has become the food of the farmers who cultivate it also on very poor soils and in difficult environments, given its resistance to drought and low temperatures.

Cicerchia contains a bitter substance (lathyrin or Oxalyldiaminopropionic acid) that is even more indigestible than lupines, hence the need for maceration in salted water and thorough boiling.
The soaking water must, therefore, be completely discarded as it contains a toxic substance resistant to cooking (beta-N-oxalylamino-L-alanine) which can harm the nervous system and lead to a paralysis of the lower limbs.

Only at the end of the XIX century and thanks to some doctors from Naples, it was possible to relate that kind of paralysis – frequent among the peasants from Abruzzo, with the excessive consumption of cicerchia. That pathology was called “lathyrism” from lathyrus, the Latin name of cicerchia.

Despite this, the Indian pea is rich in proteins and starches, vitamins B1, B2, and PP, as well as a lot of calcium, phosphorus, and fibres. It is thus recommended in nutritional oligotherapy, memory disorders, and brain fatigue, both for students and the elderly.

This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)



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