The Feast of the Madonna of the Roses

By D. Pettinella

The citizens of Torricella Peligna have always been particularly bound up with the Church of the Madonna of the Roses, built in the open countryside a few kilometres outside the village. In the month of June, roses are in flower and together with wild red berries they spontaneously frame the rural Church.

In past times the devoted citizens celebrated the Feast in June flocking in great numbers to their Church staying there and in the surrounding countryside for the entire day.

The Feast day was also an occasion for games, relaxation, meetings for children and in particular for the youths who could begin relationships based on friendships or an idyll[1]. On that day of feasting, following tradition, everyone ate lupini[2]. The youths decked their chests and hair with roses and berries; the children made crowns. Even the adults would wear a flower in their hair or over the ear. After participating in the religious services they ate a meal, which for those who did not have the money to afford a meal in the Trattoria set up in the grotto, consisted of a "bundle" that they had carried there from home. The day was spent by the women in meeting and chatting and telling stories; by the children in sliding down the cliffs, to the despair of their parents, especially their mothers, when they returned, their shorts ripped and covered in various cuts and scrapes.

The adults took advantage of going to see and kiss the footprint of Samson, legendary hero who caused the River Aventine to be born, by putting one of his feet on this side and the other on the other side of the mountain facing the Majella, leaving his footprints as evidence.

The Feast day ended late in the evening when everyone returned home tired but certainly satisfied at having spent such a lovely day filled both with religious activities and also healthy pastimes. The children returning home showed no signs of tiredness, chasing after lizards that swarmed in the countryside around or on the dusty roadway. The fireflies (glow-worms) were considered to bring good luck and so the children chasing them used to recite out loud, as if by magic, the following nursery rhyme:

"lucicappelle, lucicappelle, ví a ècche e casca ‘nterre, mezza a mè, mezza a tè, mezza a lu figlio di lu re"

"Firefly, firefly, come here and fall to the ground, in between me, in between you, in between the son of the King."

[1] an idyll = a picturesque, blissful or romantic event

[2] lupini = Lupini beans - are popular in the Mediterranean; they are often seen being sold on stalls at Italian fairs and as an appetizer at Spanish beer halls.

In the past Lupini beans were not often used as a grain because they have a bitter taste due to their high alkaloid content. A strain has been developed in the last 30 years with lower levels of alkaloids and a sweeter taste. Even this "sweet" strain, however, needs extended soaking and cooking to remove the alkaloids before the beans can be eaten. The effort is worth it, they taste good and they have the second highest protein content of all beans after Soy beans.

Preparation: from dried beans; since dried beans swell during this process, ½ Kg goes a long way!
Lupini are first soaked overnight (the skins become wrinkled) and next day simmered for several hours. When the skins are smooth and on tasting they seem done they will still be quite firm, not soft like other beans. To remove the bitterness and sweeten the beans they may need to be soaked for 2-3 days, either under running water or in the fridge in salted water; the water is discarded because the majority of the alkaloids have leached into it. This method of preparation has been practised since antiquity. They can then be stored in water, salt and oregano and maybe a little olive oil – according to taste.

They keep a long time in the fridge and provide a firm almost crunchy snack.

Nowadays one can avoid the lengthy preparation and purchase from supermarkets vacuum packs of ready prepared Lupini beans.
Suggested Use:
Sweet flavoured Lupini Beans have a firm texture, making them suitable for snacks. They are versatile and high in proteins. After cooking, Lupini Beans can be eaten by themselves, chilled and lightly salted, or be used in cold or hot salads. They are especially delicious tossed with endive and a vinaigrette made with fresh herbs.

© Amici di Torricella

Translation courtesy of Dr. Marion Apley Porreca

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