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The Purple Artichoke from St. Erasmo

Saturday, 30 April 2016
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We are right in the middle of the purple artichokes season, a Slow Food Presidia which marks the beginning of sunshine and warm weather. 

It grows in Sant’Erasmo, the lagoon's biggest island after Venice, entirely occupied by vegetable and fruit gardens, and by vineyards. The purple artichoke, like many other vegetables growing in this island, has a unique flavour given by the clayey, well-drained and salty soil; the best artichokes grow in the area close to the beach, where the soil is more sandy. 

The season starts in mid April with “castraure”, a real delicacy available only for 15 days. The "castraura" is the first apical bud of the artichoke plants, which is very tender and full of flavour. It is cut to allow the other buds, called “botoli”, to grow better. Each artichoke plants can produce only one castraura and 18-20 botoli per year. 

There are many traditional venetian recipes with artichokes: they can be deep fried, eaten raw in a salad, or cooked in a pan… it is one of the local produce that us Venetians are most proud of. 

This year we have dedicated two dishes to this wonderful produce: the ravioli, filled with artichokes, served on a bed of stracciatella cheese and olive oil infused with capers from Salina, and the lamb chops, served with a delicious artichoke tarte tatin. 

The only negative side of this vegetable is that it is nearly impossible to pair it to any wine! Luca suggests a wine with smooth tannins, like the Dolcetto di Roccheviberti.