During the springtime there are lots of tourists that, just like us, spend the warm and beautiful Sundays along the Cilento Coast. We have decided to start a journey toward Paestum, a well-known place in Piana del Sele, south of Salerno.
Today we have no specific destination and we will just follow the beautiful landscapes. We are so impressed by the quick succession of marine and mountainous views that we have lost track of the time and we have suddenly found ourselves in the shade of Paestum Temples.
We have decided to leave the car behind and to start walking down the path that runs along the archaeological site. There is a strong and tempting aroma that is very familiar to us and in fact we can see a small sign on the door of a local restaurant: “Today roasted artichokes”.
Welcome to Paestum, the birthplace of the famous round artichoke known all over the world!
We are at the very centre of the place where Paestum artichoke was born. The economy, the culture and the social life of this place are deeply connected to the vegetable that in 2004 received the PGI recognition (Protected Geographic Indication).
We are in the Piana del Sele, an area where the artichoke is the main cultivated product. It is one of the most appreciated ingredients in the local gastronomy. A lot of food is prepared with artichokes: pizza, pasta, preserves, liquors.
It is a very ancient vegetable: its origins date back to the Greek myths. It is told that Zeus was in love with Cynara, a green-eyed girl whose hair were hash in colour. When she refused the king of the gods, he turned her into an artichoke out of anger.
The artichoke was regarded as “a gift of the sun” by the Egyptians and it was also an important cultivation for the ancient Romans who used it in their infusions and medicaments.
Thanks to the PGI recognition and to the hard work of Paestum Artichoke Consortium, the “round” vegetable is now famous all over the country and is really appreciated also on the international market.
Its unmistakable sweet taste, the consistency of its big, thick leaves and the fact that it is free of thorns, make this artichoke more enjoyable compared to other types belonging to the same family. Moreover, the mild and not particularly rainy climate enables the round artichoke to be on the market much sooner than the Roman types, normally available just before summer.
There is plenty of alternatives to best enjoy artichokes. They are traditionally served at lunch during Easter in several different versions: filled, roasted, fried, used on pizza or in rustic pies.
An intense taste that changes depending on the different versions (raw or cooked) and offers a vast number of combinations and flavours. Superb with pasta, it becomes typical and particular when used in second courses or as a side dish. That’s not all: Paestum’s artichoke can be enjoyed as a liquor, a cream and can be preserved in oil or in vinegar.
Rich in fibers, proteins and mineral salts, the artichoke has been used from ancient times for his beneficial effects: depurative, diuretic and anti-inflammatory, it contains some substances that help protect the walls of arteries and veins. The ancient Romans were believed to use it for aphrodisiac purposes and to prevent boldness.
It is fat-free, rich in Iron, Calcium, C vitamin, beta-carotene and folic acid. It is also an effective digestive and helps lower blood cholesterol.
Pasta Antonio Amato is the official sponsor of the Artichoke Festival in Paestum: from 23rd of April to 1st of May you can enjoy lots of artichoke recipes. You will find: main courses, fried food and typical dishes such as the delicious cheese “Caciocavallo impiccato” with artichoke aroma.
Now we are ready to enjoy “Paestum round artichoke”: we have been served it roasted with baked potatoes. It smells wonderful and is irresistible. We want to eat it slowly, leaf by leaf. After the first leaves, crisp and substantial, there is the tender heart with its strong taste. We can’t help but mopping up our plate with bread. We’ve eaten very well and are really satisfied, but we still feel like enjoying the warm sun of spring and giving a look at the Temples. The strong, good taste of artichokes will accompany us throughout the journey back home.
Chef Pasquale Torrente's recipe
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