Tuesday, 04 August 2015 06:45

Slow Food Presidia: the Castellammare Violetto artichoke

Slow Food Presidia: the Castellammare Violetto artichoke

The flatland that extends from the Vesuvius feet to Sant’Antonio Abate and Castellammare di Stabia was already known at Roman times for its soils’ extraordinary quality that makes it perfect for gardens.

The grey lapillic soil that, thanks to lava, is rich in silicon and potassium and the particularly mild climate, thanks to the sea, created the best habitat to cultivate fruit, legumes and vegetables.
In this “hortus felix” grows the Slow Food Presidium Castellammare Violetto artichoke, also known as Schito artichoke; it is named after the area in the Castellammare di Stabia town, where this vegetable was originally cultivated.
This artichoke is a subtype of the Roman variety. The Violetto grows faster thanks to the microclimate and has a unique green colour with purple nuances.
The quality is excellent: free from thorns, it is tender and meaty with a delicate taste; rich in iron and low in calories it has outstanding nutritional properties.
The Violetto di Schito is grown in open fields, following a traditional cultivation method. In order to protect the plant from sunbeams and bad weather, the very first buds, nicknamed “mamma” or “mammolella”, are covered with clay cups, the “pignatte” or “pignatelle” that are hand made by local manufacturers still today. Thanks to this technique, the artichokes have a lighter colour and are particularly tender.
Artichokes are harvested between February and May, but the busiest period is usually around Easter. Following the local peasant tradition, once harvested, the artichokes are put in bunches carefully organized in order to preserve their freshness. In the past, these bunches were offered as Easter present instead of flowers.
Apart from the “mamma”, the first artichokes protected by clay cups, the Violetto di Castellammare has also “children”, usually protected by cans and “nephews” that are the last to be harvested.
Each family member is used for a different recipe. The mamme are usually roasted and, on Easter Monday, they can be seen smoking in the streets of Castellammare and Sant’Antonio Abate and their neighbourhoods, to be later enjoyed during the traditional picnics. Children are used in all sorts of dish, from appetizers to fish and meat mains. The nephews are the smallest: they are put in oil and they can be enjoyed any time.

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