Artichoke was already known since ancient times to be among the valuable vegetables for refined lunches, considered a very high income crop in addition to having high nutritional qualities.
In fact, it has therapeutic and healthy characteristics, carrying out a beneficial action on biliary secretion, promoting renal diuresis and regularizing intestinal functions. It is also very rich in iron.
Ancient Greeks and Romans already made great use of it.
Tradition has it that the artichoke was introduced in France by Catherine de’ Medici, a great consumer of hearts of the plant of the same name. It was she who brought the artichoke from Italy to France when she married King Henry II of France.
Instead the Dutch introduced artichokes to England: there are reports that in 1530 they were grown in the Newhall at Henry VIII’s garden.
In Italy there is a vast cultivation of artichokes. They are available for more than eight months, from October to June throughout Italy. Artichoke harvest takes place from January-February, when the plant begins to produce the first floral buds.There are several varieties and many flower several times during the year. It is very widespread especially in the Mediterranean basin and Italy holds the world record for its production. The most extensive cultivations are in: Veneto ‘early artichoke of Chioggia‘, Liguria ‘violet thorny of Albenga‘, Tuscany ‘violet artichoke‘, Lazio ‘mammole or cimaroli or romanesco laziale‘, Apulia ‘artichoke brindisino‘, Sardinia ‘thorny artichoke‘ and Sicily ‘violet artichoke of Sicily‘.
Every year in April in Ladispoli, a town about 40 km from Rome, a culinary event takes place in April, called ‘Sagra’ dedicated to the artichoke. ‘La Sagra del Carciofo di Ladispoli’ – The Artichoke Festival of Ladispoli, is an event born in 1950 and year after year has been a crescendo of success and public.
The Roman artichoke has received the IGP (Indication of Protected Origin) denomination based on many recipes of the traditional Roman and Lazio cuisine.
A recipe well known in Rome is Jewish-style artichokes, which are deep-fried whole.
Marylin Monroe was elected “Queen of the Artichoke” in 1949 in Castroville, a Californian town with great artichokes production. It was the first edition of the Artichoke Festival held every year since then.
Did you also know that artichoke is a species of thistle?
When you enjoy some artichoke, you’re actually eating a tender flower bud – but if the flower is left to blossom, it becomes extremely hard and simply not edible! This is also the reason why one eats only the inner part of an artichoke, as the external petals are already hardening and full of fibres.
What to do with the outer, woody leaves? Throw them away? Not at all!
They can be used in vegetable broth during the preparation of risotto with artichokes, or they can be boiled and then reduced to a puree.