The artichoke (Cynara scolimus) was already well known to the Egyptians and widespread throughout the Mediterranean area, as described in Columella's De Re Rustica and in Pliny the Elder's Naturalis Historia. According to some historians, the Etruscans first cultivated this vegetable from varieties of wild thistles (Cynara cardunculus) as evidenced by wall paintings featuring artichoke leaves found in tombs in the Etruscan necropolis of Tarquinia. The cultivation of the Roman artichoke became so widespread in this region that by the late Renaissance it was well established in the local gastronomy. In the Latium region, the artichoke “par excellence” is the Carciofo Romanesco, otherwise known as “mammola” or “cimarolo”. Currently, the Carciofo Romanesco del Lazio PGI is cultivated in the coastal area North of Rome, near the towns of Ladispoli and Cerveteri, having the ideal climatic and soil conditions to produce the only two species allowed: “Castellammare” (early variety) and “Campagnano” (late variety). The artichoke is harvested from March to May and is recognisable by its notable dimensions and the almost round shape of the head. The leaves have a green-violet colour, have no bristles and are tender. With tender and soft inner leaves and heart, the artichoke has a pronounced grassy smell and is very versatile in the kitchen: traditionally it is prepared “alla romana” (Roman style), slowly cooked and seasoned with garlic, parsley, lesser calamint, black pepper and abundant olive oil or “alla giudia” (Jewish style), cut in a spiral shape to eliminate the harder leaves and fried in oil with the stalk upwards until brown and crunch.
Cook and taste:
Roman style artichokes
8 Carciofo Romanesco del Lazio PGI
1/2 glass Castelli Romani DOC white wine
8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil Sabina PDO
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
1 garlic clove
lesser calamint q.s.
Remove the outer leaves and leave the upper part of the stalk, which should be peeled with a potato peeler to remove the hard outer layer. Cut off the tip of the artichoke. Chop the parsley together with the lesser calamint and the garlic. Open the leaves of the artichokes slightly and stuff with the chopped seasoning and a bit of salt. Place the artichokes upside down in a deep Pyrex dish. Cover the artichokes with olive oil and water. Bake at 200°C for an hour until the liquid has completely evaporated.