One of the rarities of the province of Arezzo is the Zolfino bean. Small-sized, round-shaped, yellow-coloured and thin-skinned, the Zolfino bean is never overcooked and stays firm to the bite.
The Zolfino bean from the Pratomagno Valley is known as fagiolo burrino, “buttery”, or fagiolo del cento, because it used to be sown the hundredth day of the year. It is grown in Tuscany, in the province of Arezzo, Valdarno. It is small-sized and has a sulphur-like yellow colour – hence the name “zolfino”. It has an irregular round shape and a very thin skin. It is produced over a 40-50 ha area, at altitudes ranging from 250-300 to 600 m a.s.l. The annual production never exceeds 10,000-12,000 kg. The distinctive trait of the Zolfino bean is its soft consistency that melts in the mouth, thanks to a very thin skin that prevents it from overcooking and becoming mushy. No other legume can stay soft yet firm to the bite as the Zolfino bean.
Organoleptic properties – Like all legumes, Zolfino beans are small in size, but large in number in the pod. They last for long time when dried, and regain their thick softness when soaked for a few hours. Regardless of the recipe, the Zolfino beans meet all the nutritional needs: they contain starch - polymeric carbohydrate serving as an important energy source – iron, vitamins and minerals. Last but not least, the high protein content makes Zolfino beans one of the best substitutes for meat.
Sowing, harvesting and preservation – Sowing time is a seminal factor in the quality of the harvest. Traditionally sowing occurs on the hundredth day of the year, that is around 10 April. No other types of beans are grown with the Zolfino bean, which has been the victim of numerous counterfeiting attempts over the years, both in Italy and abroad. If grown outside the native range of Setteponti, however, the Zolfino bean behaves very differently. Several experiments conducted in the late Nineties in more fertile grounds resulted in a bountiful harvest with larger-sized beans. Unfortunately, all varieties cooked elsewhere than Valdarno turned out to be easily overcooked.