Tumminia, Sicily’s Ancient Grain

Tumminia (pictured at Molini del Ponte in Castelvetrano), also called Timilia, is an ancient grain variety cultivated in only a few locations in the Belice Valley in western Sicily. Once milled, it plays the role of principal ingredient in Castelvetrano’s Slow Food designated pane nero (black bread). Filippo Drago, owner of Molini del Ponte in Castelvetrano, makes out-of-this-world busiate and other pastas with the flour that he grounds in his specially designed mills built to mimic old-fashioned, stone-ground milling practices. 

Tumminia is a type of durum wheat, a hard wheat. What’s most fascinating about it, is that it was “lost” until recently when a researcher found its seeds in an ethnographic museum. Because it is resistant to very high temperatures and grown primarily during the winter months, it had been widely cultivated in Sicily until the early 20th century; however, according to the Slow Food Foundation, its cultivation “has been abandoned in favor of other more profitable [wheat varieties], which is why it is at risk of disappearing.” If you’d like to try baking with tumminia flour, it is sold in the U.S. by Gustiamo.com, where you can also purchase Molini del Ponte’s fantastic busiate pasta. Thank you to Sebastiano Chiofalo of GelsominoImports.com for hosting me in Castelvetrano. 

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