With a shape that reminds us a little of a big crushed bean and the classic pastel yellow color, lupine is a legume, little known by most Italians, but rich in nutritional properties.
Its popularity is only beginning to grow in recent years, since it has become an integral part of many diets, being rich in protein, even in our beautiful country.
However, the lupine in some regions of our peninsula is already known for a long time, served as an appetizer next to olives and chips at the aperitif in bars or as a side dish and added to a classic Neapolitan Street food “‘o pere ‘o muss”, literally the foot and the muzzle (the foot of the pig and the muzzle of the calf).
Let’s see together what are the characteristics and properties of this extraordinary legume, how it is cultivated and what are its origins.
Lupine, A Plant With Ancient Origins
Known and appreciated already in the days of the Maya and the Egyptians, lupines were cultivated essentially for their beneficial properties and also as a renewal crop, to give back to the cultivated land that fertility eroded over time by previous crops.
Characteristics Of The Lupine Plant
The lupine, common name of Lupinus albus, is a herbaceous plant with annual cultivation belonging to the Fabaceae family.
It grows both spontaneously, in places and areas favorable to it, and cultivated for its properties. The lupinus plant has an erect stem, little branched, and reaches a height of one and a half meters.
Endowed with strong roots and rich in tubercles, the lupine plant has very elongated, slightly velvety and alternate oval leaves.
The flowers of the lupine plant appear in spring, white in color and all gathered on small groups of branches (raceme inflorescences).
After the fecundation, from the flowers begin to grow the seeds, the edible part of the lupine plant.
The seeds of the lupine plant are the lupins, little known legumes with a particular appearance and color, as we have already mentioned, pastel yellow when ready to be eaten, are collected between the end of July and August.
Nutritive Properties Of Lupins
Gluten-free, like other legumes, lupins are very rich in protein. Not surprisingly, they are considered one of the main sources of vegetable protein in modern diets.
In addition to protein, contained in large quantities about 40% of the seed, lupins also contain fibre, albeit in smaller quantities than the first, which is very useful for our intestines.
Also phosphorus and potassium, but in particular zinc and iron are other elements that stand out for their benefits and usefulness, especially in vegan or vegetarian diets.
Lupine also contains moderate amounts of vitamin B6 and B1 and vitamin C. Small amounts of polyunsaturated fats such as Omega 3 and Omega 6 finally make this legume a unique source of nutrition.
For 100 grams of lupines you have about 115 calories, so perfectly suitable for any type of diet.
Cultivation Of The Lupine Plant
The lupine plant is very rustic and well suited to any place, but prefers warm places, in fact it is no coincidence that lupine cultivation is very flourishing in the southern part of our beautiful country.
Excellent plant, like all leguminous plants, given its high nitrogen content, to be included in the agricultural rotation, as we have mentioned, to return to the soil the fertility lost during previous crops.
Therefore, not only does the lupine plant produce edible seeds with remarkable properties, but it is also useful in the cycle of intensive cultivation.
Multiplication And Propagation Of The Lupine Plant
The multiplication and propagation of the lupine plant takes place almost exclusively by seed.
Sowing of Lupine
The sowing of the lupine plant is carried out between October and November before the arrival of winter, generally to obtain at least twenty plants per square meter you have to sow with a distance of at least 30 – 40 cm, using different rows always at the same distance.
Although the lupine plant adapts well to any type of soil, it prefers slightly acidic and well drained soils.
Even if it prefers warm places and dry climate, the lupine plant adapts also to more rigid and less temperate and warm climates, as long as the temperatures never go below zero, it also fears frosts.
The lupine plant, very leathery and native to warm areas, does not need excessive watering, only in the periods of greater heat and prolonged drought watering the plant one aio of times a week.
Always avoiding to create water stagnations, which is very unwelcome to the plant and which could also lead it to death following a common disease due to the excessive water, the root rot.
To obtain rich and abundant cultivations, we can help the plant in its growth with phosphorous fertilizers in mainly alkaline soils, while in the case of acidic soils prefer fertilizers with a higher potassium content.
The frequency and quantity depend mainly on the type of fertilizer used, so in this case get advice from your trusted phytoiatrician and read the directions for use on the package.
Lupine Diseases And Parasites
The lupine plant is often affected by fungal diseases, where, generally, the main cause is the excessive water supply given to the plant with the consequent dangerous creation of stagnations.
Water stagnation can also cause so-called root rot, which can even lead to the death of the plant.
Latest Curiosities About Lupines
The word lupines, at least in the southern part of our peninsula, is used both for the seeds of the lupine plant and then indicate in the case of legumes but also for particular molluscs, similar to clams but small in size and exceptional taste.
In this regard, the word lupins can be found in a famous novel by L. Verga, I Malavoglia, in which reference is made to a batch of “soaked lupins”, and since the author of the novel does not give any other indication about these lupins and given the ambiguity of the term, a real diatribe has opened on what he wanted to indicate with that term Verga if the legume or mollusk.