If lupo means wolf in Italian, wouldn’t lupini mean little wolves? That’s a good guess, but the word for little wolf is actually lupetto (which also means cub scout).
I lupini, pronounced loo-PEE-nee, are edible beans from the genus Lupinus (Fabaceae family). You’ll probably only hear Italians use the plural masculine noun lupini, but just FYI, the singular form is il lupino. One last wolf reference: as an adjective, lupino does indeed mean wolfish.
I lupini are often eaten at the end of a meal or as a snack. You’ll find them sold in bags, pre-boiled and pre-salted, in the refrigerated section. I lupini can also be packaged sott’olio [conserved in oil]. Around certain holidays, you’ll find i lupini sold dry-roasted, alongside le arachidi [peanuts] and other treats, in many city centers.
As is also the case with le fave [fava beans], some people may unknowingly have very strong allergies to i lupini. Nevertheless, people in the Mediterranean have been eating i lupini, as well as feeding i lupini to their animals, since ancient times.
Easy to work with, i lupini are frequently ground into croquettes or vegetarian burgers, and sometimes used instead of i ceci [chickpeas] to create l’hummus [hummus] – check out these recipes for more ideas!
If this is the kind of learning you like to do, pick up a copy of Italian Through Food!