Coming to Italy, one of my priorities was to eat a bunch of really great food. Now that I’m here, I am definitely doing well with that priority. The thing I noticed most about being here and eating the food so far is just so fresh and (of course) delicious. On our group’s field trip to a real farm in the Tuscan countryside, we walked there from our study center and along the way we got to stop and learn about some of the plants that grow here. There was one plant that was growing in a private garden and struck my interest. It was the artichoke plant, or in Italian “carciofo”. The Cynara cardunculus (artichoke in its Latin binomial nomenclature) is actually related to the thistle plant and it’s a commonly eaten plant in many different countries. I had never seen an artichoke still on a stalk before and seeing one up close was really neat. I really got to see the flower, which is commonly cultivated and consists of thick leafy scales and within the layers of scales is a meaty bud commonly called the “heart”. For me, I love eating artichokes. Steaming them, and having the scales and, of course, the heart with some drawn butter is a wonderful dish. But my favorite way to eat artichokes is when the hearts are marinated in an olive and vinegar base with other herbs added for taste. They are absolutely delicious. After the walk on the farm, we went to the town of Arezzo and for lunch I went to a small grocery store, in Italian called an “alimentari”, and one of the first things I saw behind the counter in a little compartment were whole artichoke hearts marinating in liquid gold (olive oil and vinegar that is). I didn’t buy any but I am going to search long and far to find some in Castiglion Fiorentino and I’ll be sure to enjoy them when I do.
|artichokes in marinade|