Sulla was not just a memorable Roman General that Plutarch wrote about and Mozart composed operas around, but the name of an even greater sweetly-fragranced crimson flower, whose fodder, much beloved by animals, perhaps explains part of why it seems Abruzzo cheeses & even meats taste so different to things back home.
When visiting Abruzzo between March & September, particularly in the Chieti province of the region, don’t be surprised to see large bright deep purpley-red fields that appear to be bolted onto hillsides and which literally take your breath away as you rattle round mountain bends, a sharp contrast to their neighbouring green sway of ripening grains & beans.
Now, no canny Abruzzo farmer would plant a field of pretty flowers purely to make a bunch of tourists happy; the advantages of growing Sulla as a crop is that not only does it feed & fix nitrogen in the soil ready for next year’s crops, but it also helps prevents soil erosion. In addition it increases milk yield and milk protein in cows, and reduces all-important methane emissions – a plant that can help reduce global warming! For Abruzzo’s all-important sheep farmers the benefits from using these splendid flowers as hay include not just the non-bloating affect creating less gas but the provision of a natural protection from gastro-worms. Always nice to know that what you eat hasn’t been completely laced by a visit from the vet, no wonder it’s become so popular & grown now by farmers in New Zealand.
Erba Sulla, to give this great flower its Italian name, is also an important money-making honey crop thus encouraging a very bio-diverse Abruzzo. Italy is the land where you don’t simply buy a jar of ‘honey’ rather a jar of carefully cultivated flowers whose nectar give rise to unique & individual flavours with medicinal benefits. In the case of the delicately sweet Sulla Honey its hidden properties lay in its diuretic & laxative qualities as well as being a great skin food for those with oily skin.