The Roman artichoke: the prince of the traditional recipes
A few people know the Roman artichoke - called "carciofolo" in Roman dialect -, the first vegetable gaining the PGI classification, thanks to its organoleptic features, the absence of spurs, and its dimension.
But also its history is very interesting. Its origins are very ancient, from the Middle East. We know the Arabian people used to cultivate it in the 4th century BC, and they used to call it "kharshuf", that means "stinging plant".
According to the ancient Greeks, it was the incarnation of a nymph Jupiter loved for her beauty, named Cynara.
Other documents tell about it, such as the work by Esiodo "The works and the days", and Alceo's, telling that the period of collection of this vegetable represents the moment in which women are looking for pleasure.
Also Pliny and Varro wrote about the artichoke, describing it as a fertility goddess, SD Etruscan and Roman people said, too.
The beneficial properties of the artichoke were well known also in the ancient Egypt, as the Pharaoh Ptolemy III ordered to give it to the soldiers to make them stronger. The artichoke is mentioned in Pliny the elder's "Naturalis Historia", where its qualities are described, especially concerning the benefits also Galen thought about; the artichoke is able to relax the body and it is diuretic.
Also after the fall of the Roman Empire, this plant has been considered a very important ingredient used to treat people, and drunk into infusions and teas.
The aftershock appeared on the French people menu thanks to Caterina de' Medici's cooks. Despite its long life, the Roman artichoke was cultivated only in little plots of land, by families. Its spread in the Italian capital took place after the Great War, thanks to the cultivation taking place in Cerveteri, Ladispoli, and Campagnano, and until the moment and intensive growth was developed all over the country.
The Roman artichoke and its festivals
The Roman artichoke of Lazio is the one cultivated in the areas near Rome, Latina, and Viterbo. It is also known by the name of "Cimarolo" or "Mammola" and it is characterized by a rounded top up with a hole surrounded by green and purple leaves. The large stem is more than 10 cm long: in the region of Lazio, you can buy just one or a deck of artichokes:
The Festival takes place in the areas where it is grown. The Sagra di Ladispoli, the Carciofolata Veliterna, and the Sagra di Sezze.
What makes this food very peculiar is it ancient tradition. Everybody knows the Jewish artichokes, usually made using ingredients such as salt, garlic, oil, and mint, making it gorgeous. The ‘matticella’ recipe is different, because it is cooked only in Veliterna. You can use it also in other dishes such as the tasty Lasagna.
We told you about some Roman dishes, such as the Jewish artichokes. Despite of its so easy recipe, this dish is just wonderful.
We have to look for its origins in the Jewish ghetto in Rome, where people loved to eat fried food. In the past, the women living there used to cook the artichokes to make dishes during the Kippur period, because before it they had to eat nothing.
The recipe is very easy, and you just have to take the external leaves away - as they are the hardest ones - as it was a flower. Then, you have to clean the stem with a knife. Immerse it in cold water and lemon juice for 12 minutes, in order to avoid the oxidation process.
Then drain them and clap them to open the leaves.
Season them by salt and pepper, and wait for a while before putting them in a saucepan full of oil, in order to cover the artichoke; fry it for 10 minutes, and let it cool. The artichoke will have the shape of a bronzed rose, and the leaves will be crunchy and tasty.
When you talk about the Roman artichoke, you refer to this specific recipe so old and ancient. You have to clean it keeping the external leaves away before cutting the upper part of the flower, then you have to clean the stem and put the artichoke in some water and lemon for a few time. Fill in the artichoke with a mix of oil, garlic, mint, grated bread, pepper, salt, and parsley - you should have prepared it in advance. Then you cook it in a pan, seasoning it by oil, mint, parsley, salt, pepper, and a glass of wine for about 30 minutes.
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