Lentils are cultivated in terraced seaside gardens at an altitude of 0-80 m asl. Cultivation takes place in Ustica’s fertile soil of volcanic origin. Their abundance of mineral salts gives the lentils excellent organoleptic qualities.
The soil is prepared from September through December and involves ploughing 2 or 3 times, normally in September, November and December, followed by working the surface to prepare the sowing bed.
Lentils are sown in rows from mid-December through the end of January.
The seeds used are self-produced annually by the individual farmers, who carefully select integral seeds that correspond perfectly with the known ecotype and have been taken from the production areas with less risk of genetic contamination.
The production of lentils from Ustica does not involve fertilization. Moreover, the island’s volcanic soil is enriched with sufficient phosphorous and potassium for this cultivation. Flowering occurs about 80-100 days after the seeds have been sown, and therefore from mid-March to mid-April. Setting is complete by mid-May.
The plant is dry by the first week in June and the pods are ready to be threshed.
Visitors in Ustica at the end of spring can sometimes still participate in the traditional manual threshing process (spagliatura in local dialect), where the plants are first threshed with large rocks dragged by donkeys and then thrown into the air using a pitchfork, to eliminate any straw. Lastly, the lentils are sifted to eliminate any little stones and other impurities.
Harvesting takes place when the plants are dry. They are uprooted by hand or scythed and then piled up and transported for threshing, which is carried out by hand or more commonly using a thresher in a fixed position. The lentils are stored at -20°C for 48 hours during the first month after harvesting to protect them from the bean weevil, which develops during the storing phase.
Lentils from Ustica that are stored in a cool, dry place can be kept for several years. Nevertheless, the best before date on the package complies with the related legislation.