The Spiny Artichoke
The spiny artichoke it is a Sardinian excellence. Cultivated throughout Sardinia, with broad leaves of a dark green color brushed up to the brown-violet inside and with yellow thorns on the tops. The stem has a fibrous but soft structure. Typical plant of the Mediterranean basin, it is also cultivated in other areas of Italy, of different species. This particular variety has found its ideal land in Southern Sardinia, which nourishes and oxygenates it to give it an intense and unmistakable flavor.
This type of artichoke is found throughout the island and belongs to the species Cynara Scolimus . Traditionally famous are those of Villacidro (VS) , and those of Masainas in the province of Sulcis, where the encounter between the sea air and the light breeze of the surrounding mountains gives this perennial herbaceous plant an intense and particular flavor. Thanks to its land and its ecosystem, the Sulcis has also allowed the artichoke plant to find its perfect habitat here: from the coastal areas, constantly caressed by the sea breeze, to the hinterland, in the valleys set between gentle slopes, crossed by courses of pure and crystalline water. The brand of the spiny artichoke is protected and constant checks guarantee and promote the link of this product with the territory. For the care of the production phases, the denomination and the specific cultivation area, since 2011 it has been protected as a DOP product (Protected Designation of Origin). Its wide diffusion on the markets of various parts of the world has prompted the bodies responsible for protecting the “Spiny Artichoke DOP” brand from false denominations, in order to continue to guarantee all its properties and quality intact.
The history of the artichoke is very ancient. The first evidence of its consumption on the tables and for herbal use dates back to the Greek and Egyptian period and subsequently to the Phoenicians. Nowadays, this food, which for centuries has been part of the diet of the peoples who have inhabited the territory, represents a fundamental node of local agriculture. In the eighteenth century the Sassarese nobleman Andrea Manca dell’Arca, in 1780 in his Agriculture of Sardinia , speaks of the presence of the artichoke in various typical recipes of the area. In the early twentieth century the production and cultivation of the artichoke changed. From food intended for domestic consumption only, it passed to a wider but always controlled production, to satisfy the increasing demand for the product on the national and international market. From this process the spiny artichoke became a well-known, popular product, a symbol of quality and shows all its link with the territory from which it comes.
Each stage of production is carefully followed to guarantee a safe and genuine product. The artichoke is grown in open fields, in an airy and well-drained soil, irrigated periodically. In May, the first deep plowing begins, followed by a light one. In June, a second plowing is carried out, with watering of the soil. From the end of June to August, the rhizomes of the artichoke are placed, followed by specific checks to prevent diseases and infestations. At the end November the first harvest, strictly by hand, to preserve intact the visual and organoleptic qualities. During this process, the artichoke is placed in cooling cells, to allow a fresh product to be brought to all tables.
With a full-bodied and intense taste it can be tasted both raw , accompanied by oil and spices, or cooked in a wide range of recipes, including typical ones. From lamb with artichokes , typical of the Medio-Campidano area, to the Panada , typical of the Ogliastra, this food is a constant of Mediterranean cuisine, to which it adds a special flavor.