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Solina: ancient Abruzzese mountain grain

Solina: ancient Abruzzese mountain grain

Throughout Abruzzo’s interior, the Solina variety is used as a reference point when talking about wheat. Popular sayings, like “Solina fixes all flours” or “if the farmer wants to go to the mill, he should sow Solina”, attest to the close connection between the variety and local life. It was once particularly appreciated for its consistent productivity, guaranteeing the survival of farming families.

Historic sources, such as notarial deeds of sale drawn up at the Lanciano fair, testify to the cultivation of this very old variety of soft wheat in Abruzzo since at least the start of the 16th century. In the early 20th century it was used by renowned Italian geneticist Nazareno Strampelli for experiments and in crosses with other local varieties.

The wheat is characteristic of the Gran Sasso’s mountainous and marginal zones, particularly the inland areas of the mountains on the L’Aquila side, where the cold temperatures and high altitudes produce a grain of excellent quality. Able to resist long periods under the snow and intense cold, the variety can be grown from 600 up to 1,400 meters above sea level and higher. In fact, the higher the altitude, the better the quality: in the mountains facing Pescara and Teramo, where the climate is milder due to the influence of the Adriatic Sea, the wheat is never grown lower than 750 meters.

The wheat is always sown in the autumn, from the middle to the end of September at higher altitudes and in the last 20 days of October in the lower-lying inland valleys. Harvest is in July. Solina flour is little suited to modern production technologies, which require wheat with a high gluten content, but brings unexpected, almost-forgotten flavours to baked goods and homemade pasta. Its cultivation is labour intensive: the mountainous terrain is difficult to access and to farm, and the wheat must be rotated with other crops like corn and potatoes and legumes for fodder or eating like chickpeas and lentils. The harvest is slow to arrive, particularly at higher altitudes, and the average yield is not particularly high, generally around 20 quintals per hectare.

The Solina wheat is used to make a not-very-strong flour, best worked by hand. It is ideally used to make homemade bread and pasta, as well as bakery. Two particularly typical dishes are sheets of pasta cut into pieces and used in timbales and scrippelle, Teramo’s typical crêpes, served in broth.

Reproduced from Fondazione Slow Food